After the utterly ridiculous good-ol'-boy trucker film CONVOY in 1978, Sam
Peckinpah languished for five years before returning in 1983 with what would
prove to be his final film--THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, based on Robert Ludlum's
maddeningly complex 1972 spy novel.
Despite the fact that it is often cold and sometimes confusing, this film's weakest moments are far superior to even the strongest moments of CONVOY. Rutger Hauer stars as a hard-hitting TV talk show host with a habit of skewering people inside the U.S. government. As this film opens, he is about to have a reunion with five friends of his from the good old days of 1960s radical college politics.
But then a CIA operative (John Hurt) drops a bombshell on him: Those friends of his (Craig T. Nelson, Dennis Hopper, Helen Shaver, Cassie Yates, Chris Sarandon) are supposedly traitors working for the Soviets in a scheme involving germ warfare sabotage. The result is that Hurt, with Hauer's reluctant acceptance, sets up surveillance equipment throughout Hauer's property to document further evidence of his friends' betrayal. When those people start coming unglued, however, more is at stake than just national security or the Cold War. So are peoples' lives!
Though Peckinpah was clearly on his last run while making it, THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND shows that he still could deliver the goods when it came to setting up great action sequences. The final shootout between Hurt's CIA underlings and Hauer and Nelson is edited in such a way as to resemble THE WILD BUNCH, while its actual filming suggests still another Peckinpah masterpiece, STRAW DOGS. Lalo Schifrin's score brilliantly accentuates things. Peckinpah, in depicting the head of the CIA (Burt Lancaster) as the heavy, also clearly makes a statement against America's heavy-handed approach toward Communism in the Reagan era.
All in all, despite its slight confusion, THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND works for those willing to give it a go.
The host of an investigative news show is convinced by the CIA that the friends he has invited to a weekend in the country are engaged in a conspiracy that threatens national security in this adaptation of the Robert Ludlum novel.
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