|Dir:||Andrew V. McLaglen|
|Star:||Roger Moore, James Mason, Anthony Perkins|
|Cert / Year:||PG13 / 1980|
Jennifer and Ruth are oilrigs in the North Sea Oil field north off Scotland, and they have just been hijacked. Operating from the supply ship Esther a criminal gang lead by the ruthless Lou Kramer (Anthony Perkins) (sounds like the guy should be editing the New York times) have planted explosives on both oil rigs and are now demanding twenty five million pounds. The British Navy is contacted and Admiral Sir Francis Brindsen (James Mason) knows of only one man who can help. He runs his own freelance counter terrorist team, and is unconventional in the extreme. However Rufus Excalibur Ffolkes (Roger Moore) is the government's only hope.
Well this is a real blast from the past. I remember watching this at the end of term at school where its pre Die Hard \ Under Siege blend of action adventure proved extremely popular. So it is with a warn glow of nostalgia I get to review this film. Hold on what do I mean by pre Die Hard \ Under Siege? You see this is an early example of the terrorists in a skyscraper, boat, train, hot air balloon, whatever movie. All of the elements of this type of film are here but in a peculiarly British way. Ok so was it any good? Well both yes and no.
The main draw to this movie is Roger Moore with possibly his best performance ever. Forget James Bond or Simon Templar, Rufus Excalibur Ffolkes is the exact opposite. For once his ability is pushed as he gets to play a bearded bigoted misogynist, who drinks whisky at 10 in the morning, does needlework, and loves cats. It is an extraordinary central character, original and eminently likeable despite the fact that he is a complete git. Roger Moore does a brilliant job in bringing him to life and effortlessly steals every scene he is in, a real acting tour de force. Of course such a character would need a good adversary, and in Anthony Perkins he gets one. His performance as Lou Kramer is part John Dillinger and part Norman Bates, a criminal mastermind with truly psychotic tendencies.
These characters just form part of the excellent script from Jack Davies (based on this own novel). He was a writer who was probably better known for his comedy films (some of the best Norman Wisdom films, and a couple of the Doctor movies) but here he delivers a likeable and well thought out action adventure. The plot was topical at the time, and is still quite original. The characters and dialogue are sharp and a nice degree of tension is built up leading to the action packed finale.
So why is it no so good? Maybe it's because of its tiny budget but this film has a distinctly home-filmed look to it. It is more Children's film foundation than Hollywood mainstream. It's hard to put a finger on it but it just doesn't have the polish of a modern film. Of course this is not helped by the less then convincing model effects.
In the days of the modern action blockbuster North Sea Hijack is a bit of a curators egg. It is very much a prototype for the genre. Despite the violence it remains more family friendly than the majority of action films. However it is the brilliant central performances and strongly written script that are the main reasons to watch the film. It's a pity that the production values and overall budget wasn't bigger, but this isn't a reason to ignore this movie. North Sea Hijack is a fine action adventure film from yesteryear, and it still has the power to excite and entertain. For me it brings back some happy memories.
Roger Moore is "ffolkes" the man who loved cats, ignored women and is about to save the world.
Brinsden: I suppose you're one of those fellows who does the Times crossword puzzle in ten minutes.
Ffolkes: I have NEVER taken TEN minutes.