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Saturday, February 08, 2020

McBAIN (1991)

When the star looks like he wishes he were in a Golan-Globus movie instead.

Last night's lull-me-to-sleep movie was McBAIN (1991), featuring a zombified Christopher Walken as a Viet Nam vet who gets called in to honor a debt that requires him to lead ragtag revolutionaries in taking down a stereotypical Columbian dictator/drug trafficker. It was so by-the-numbers and stupid that I ended up watching the whole thing, marveling at a movie of its wannabe Golan-Globus ilk being released as late as 1991. It comes off exactly like a bunch of little boys (and the neighborhood's girl who got in on this sort of thing) playing soldier with toy weapons and a few pets thrown into the mix, only enacted by grownups, and the effect is unintentionally (?) hilarious.

The film opens in Viet Nam in 1973 on the day when the conflict is officially declared over, where we see our hero as a P.O.W. forced to fight to the death against a hulking enemy bruiser who's armed with a big-ass knife and low-budget martial arts skills. By comparison, Walken looks like a dried-up scarecrow and basically gets his ass mercilessly kicked. That is, until a bunch of hardcore U.S. soldiers show up in a Huey, blow the living shit out of the P.O.W. camp and liberate the prisoners, which is when McBain — whose first name is Bobby, so we get an action hero named Bobby — meets Santos, the Columbian-born U.S. soldier to whom he now owes a life debt. Eighteen years later,  Santos is killed during a botched coup attempt, so his sister (Maria Conchita Alonso — remember her?) rides out of her shot-in-the-Phillipines Columbian village on a donkey and somehow tracks McBain to NYC, where he works on the Brooklyn Bridge as an arc welder. McBain witnessed Santos' death on the news, so he's on board to help the man's sister but first he rounds up a group of U.S. vets to form an even cheesier variant on the A-Team and then we're off to endless firefights and shots of Columbian peasants screaming "Libertad!" while waving rifles in the air. 

Bobby McBain (Christopher Walken). Not since Sean Connery's 007 has a protagonist exuded such palpable alpha wolf energy.

Bear in mind that there was no prior setup whatsoever to lead us to believe McBain — excuse me..."Bobby" — was in any way a highly-skilled commando with the respect and unquestioning loyalty of equally-skilled former soldiers, one of whom (Michael Ironside) is now a multi-gazillionaire whose cash and apparent deep ties to the U.S. government are totally at Bobby's disposal, which is convenient since Bobby and his faux A-Team require a budget of $10 million for weapons and a light aircraft, plus air support from a U.S. fighter pilot acting as a military supply plane's escort in Columbia. (The guy basically ditches his own assignment because McBain mentions he knew the guy's father's division during 'Nam, and brings his fully-loaded fighter jet with him.) The relative ease with which this crew accomplishes the takeover is childlike in its narrative simplicity and grasp of the concept of "unsanctioned international incident" and it's a fucking hoot.

Much like the rest of the movie, the film's tag line of "It takes a killer to stop the killing" makes no sense whatsoever. When we meet him, Bobby's getting his ass handed to him by some Viet Cong thug and he requires the army to save his scrawny ass. Skip ahead by eighteen years and with no explanation whatsoever he's suddenly effortlessly badassed and connected. WAHAAAA??? Ludicrous, but very entertaining.

Oh, and according to the IMDB, the release of this movie led the writers of THE SIMPSONS to refer to their McBain character only as Rainier Wolfcastle for some time in order to avoid confusion with this film. When what they felt was enough time had passed, the name "McBain" returned.

Packaging image from the VHS release.

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