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The Man of Destiny Post

Cold War hangover: the flat Company Business

Company Business is a great example of how one can have a good premise for a movie, excellent locations and a solid cast and still come up with something completely flat.

This was a "filler" movie in yet another multipack DVD set, filling out Gorky Park and Eye of the Needle.  Clearly I saved the worst for last.

Gene Hackman is a retired CIA agent and Mikhail Baryshnikov is an imprisoned KGB spy who is going to be traded for an American U-2 pilot who has been on ice since 1969.  It's 1990, and the Cold War is over, so tensions should be lowered, but of course CIA is always up to bad things and that provides the requisite intrigue to get the story going.

The problem is that it doesn't.  The co-stars have great chemistry and nice screen presence, but everything feels like a paint-by-numbers exercise.  Once the deal goes south, Hackman and Baryshnikov must use their wits and skills to survive, but of course their former handlers anticipate each move - which immediately destroys any sense of urgency or tension.  It's basically a shaggy dog story that you know is a shaggy dog story and you're simply checking your watch and waiting for the punchline.  And when you get there, it turns out you already guessed it five minutes ago.

One nice thing is the fact that the CIA is correctly portrayed as a bunch of incompetent, self-serving amoral hacks, which is nice.  In that respect, we need more movies like this.


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