|[an error occurred while processing this directive]||
‘Year of the Gun’ (R)By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 01, 1991
You're making a political thriller about an American reporter caught up in Italy's murderous turmoils in the 1970s. Your casting choices are:
(a) River Phoenix; (b) Andrew McCarthy; (c) Ernest.
In John Frankenheimer's "Year of the Gun," they went for McCarthy. Phoenix would have been infinitesimally better. But trust me, Ernest would have turned this misbegotten project into a classic: "Uh Vern, ah'm bein' held by Red Brigades. They don't seem very friendly . . ."
It's 1978 in Rome. Aldo Moro's weak centrist government presides over warring factions on the left and right. Riots, assassinations, maimings and kidnapings are commonplace. McCarthy wants to use this atmosphere as a backdrop for his first novel. He draws his characters from people he knows, intending to fictionalize their names later. He also concocts a plot in which the Red Brigades kidnap Moro. The details are all too prescient. The book falls into the wrong hands, and McCarthy finds himself in danger.
Frankenheimer recycles every shopworn cliche of the political thriller, from A to "Z." In addition to McCarthy's American reporter, there are two Intriguing Women (bourgeois beauty Valeria Golino and American photojournalist Sharon Stone). There is the requisite Local Contact (college professor John Pankow); the Potential CIA Operative (newspaper publisher George Murcell); and the usual movie-extra legions of government goons and brutal subversives.
If any hope of success existed, McCarthy dashes it. An actor best suited to brat-pack (a boy and his mousse) movies, he weighs in like an underwear commercial. As for Golino (Lover #1) and Stone (#2), their cover-girl presences assure the movie's complete destruction.
Clotheshorse Stone takes the cake. She appears to have a psycho-orgasmic passion for snapping death and destruction in political hot spots around the world. "The first time I put my life on the line was in Saigon," she tells McCarthy. Her photographic modus operandi is hilarious. During riots, she runs into the thick of the crowd, snapping right in the faces of angry, stick-wielding radicals. How she avoids being clubbed to death is this cliched movie's only mystery.
Copyright The Washington Post