4/25/12

Hey, Girl. Hauer You Doin'?: The Osterman Weekend (1983)

I can hardly believe this month is nearly over and this should be the last of Hey, Girl. Hauer You Doin'? I’ve had a great time with Rutger, and we've seen him ride across fantasy landscape with a bad case of ornithophilia, be menaced by a brat packer turned cyber bully, and hunt a rapper in Oregon while accompanied by Ghandi. If there's one thing that can certainly be said about Mr. Hauer, his career has been as varied as the scope of cinema. This week's selection is no exception. Not only is it the last film of a great.... or once great director; The Osterman Weekend is a prescient film that missed its audience during its original release but speaks to today's society awash with surveillance. It was also Rutger's big stab for mainstream leading man credibility. Coming out directly after his well received performance in Bladerunner, the adaptation of spy writer Robert Ludlum's novel seemed a perfect choice for the star. However, just like the world his character enters, the mechanizations behind the scenes proved to be his undoing.


John Tanner (Hauer) is a hard hitting journalist who isn't afraid to ask the tough questions on his show ‘Face to Face‘. The trouble comes when he's faced by a series of tough looking facts. Tanner is approached by Lawrence Fassett of the CIA with surveillance video proving that his closest friends are actually moles for the KGB involved in bioterrorism. On the coming weekend, Tanner is hosting them for an annual gathering of friends called Osterman's after the original benefactor of the event, TV writer Bernard Osterman (Craig T. Nelson). Fassett wants Tanner to assist in turning one of his friends into a double agent, but as the others arrive (Dennis Hopper and Chris Sarandon), tensions begin to mount leading the weekend down a steadily more violent path. To protect his wife (Meg Foster) and child, Tanner tries to pull the plug on the operation, but the facts that he's seen may not be the whole truth of it all.

John Hurt setting up the casual pick.
When The Osterman Weekend was released, it was criticized as being a meandering, confusing mess, both before and after the producers re-cut the version turned in by the irascible director. The once great director I mentioned earlier is Sam Peckinpah, and The Osterman Weekend would be the last film in a career that broke ground before hitting the skids. Without a doubt, it is a better film than his previous effort, Convoy, but it is not without many problems. The version I watched was the director's cut, culled from the only known print, a dingy full screen VHS, and I would have liked to see the producer's cut for comparison. Peckinpah's version starts unsettlingly, and in a very Italian way, with a beautiful naked girl being killed. Let me say that naked blondes are a large part of this film, and the only woman who doesn't doff her top is brunette Meg Foster. These events, shown to us on grainy video being watched by the CIA chief (screen legend Burt Lancaster), are the crux of what the film is really about.

In the original version of Coach, the part of
Dauber was played by Dennis Hopper.
True story.
On the surface, The Osterman Weekend is a film about a man who finds out that his closest friends are not who they seem. In and of itself, it is a classic plot mined by everything from Body Snatchers to Mean Girls. The real meat in Ludlum's story is the reality that unfolds though the lens of a surveillance camera. (For those of you wondering, the boring preachy part is probably on its way, so skip down to the next paragraph if you're not in for that.) In 1983, the technology was in its infancy, and looking at it now, we all see better equipment being used in gas stations every day. Given that, a slightly paranoid mind, and the fact that there are such things as traffic cameras, drone planes, and we all basically carry around a GPS in our pocket with a camera right in it, it's not a long leap to assume that the government is still well ahead on the technological curve when it comes to finding out exactly what you're up to. Now, I say you because obviously they don't want me, you're the one that kept reading the boring, preachy part which got a little bit Unabombery somewhere along the way. More importantly than the video itself, the film wants us to think about how that information can be manipulated. Not with trickery of computers, but merely by bending reality with the use of context, a person’s life can be completely turned around. So, hopefully, there’s not footage of you reading this out of context.

"I thought you were a football coach!"
Though the story falters and is full of plot holes, if you spend time to unravel every nuance, like last week's Surviving the Game, the cast pulls the film through its shortcomings. Hauer was certainly making a bid for leading man (though I think he could have kicked a bit more ass, more on that later), and he does so convincingly nailing both the emotional portions of the film and the suspenseful moments with equal ease. Craig T. Nelson, who I honestly mostly know from his days on Coach, is amazing as the supposed ringleader of the KGB pals, and his hipster handlebar mustache adds an extra layer of suspected evil to the character. I kept waiting for him to tie someone to the train tracks, but sadly, it never happened.

"They Live? Not When I get done  with them."
Chris Sarandon is one of those actors that I love to see no matter if it's Fright Night or Princess Bride. He always delivers, and his hothead provided some great early conflict. The only actor who seemed really reserved was Hopper who is nearly lost in the film's events. Standing out, as she always does with those icy blue eyes, They Live's Meg Foster both does a great job and gets the biggest action oriented scene in the film. In fact, it graced many versions of The Osterman Weekend's posters rather than a picture of star Rutger Hauer. While I waited for Rutger to unleash his inner badass, what I didn’t expect was for Foster to settle the score.

Not cool, Rutger. We want them to
stay around, leave a comment,
and tell us if they want more.
See, Coach knows that's not cool.
There is very little in The Osterman Weekend to let you know that this is a Sam Peckinpah film. Sure, there's one awkwardly placed bit of slow motion during the film's singular car chase. It's one of the most disconnected pieces of cinema I've ever seen. It appears as if it was expected, but its usage is as empty as the car that slowly, repeatedly slams into a sewage pipe. It made me wonder, even of this director's cut, how much of the film did Sam actually show up for? Due to drink or illness, I suspect, in spirit at least, the Peckinpah of old was gone. While The Osterman Weekend marks the end of one career, it surely changed another. While Hauer didn't become a matinee idol, Ladyhawke, Flesh + Blood, and The Hitcher, all starring roles, lay right on his horizon. So don't worry your heads about how Rutger would do, the real question is this, Hauer You Doin'? 

That wraps it up for the month, but if you want more Rutger in your life, leave me a comment, and who knows, there might just be more Hauer where that came from! Thanks to everyone who read and commented all month long!



Bugg Rating

2 comments:

  1. Osterman Weekend is a much better film than people might expect considering that 1) Peckinpah was a complete mess at the time, and 2) his previous film, Convoy, was the worst of his career. Sure, I'd like one of my favorite directors to go out on something far more epic, but factoring everything else in, Osterman Weekend works much more than it should. Plus, John Hurt! Yeah!

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  2. teddy crescendoMay 4, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    Zachary, could you reveiw "Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia" (1973), i think its Peckinpahs best film, its also one of only two films that i can think of that is a masterpiece and total garbage at the same time ! ! ! (a very odd catagorie i think you`ll agree), the other being...thats right...you guessed it..."The Texas Chain-Saw Massacre 2" (1986).

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