Life in the final frontier is a lot like life in the wild west. In "Outland," Sean Connery comes out of the sky, a spaceman sheriff, and takes on the bandits in a mining town on Io (Eye-Oh), one of Jupiter's moons. Instead of the desert full of rattlers, there's your basic vacuum outside. The hero's wife foresakes him to go back to Earth and give their son "a chance to breathe air -- where you don't broil or explode."
Even in a lunar town the saloon has swingin doors, and the hard drinkers and barflies look up from their smokes and depressants, and continue to ignore a sex a go-go show, when Federal District Marshall William T. O'Niel walks in. He's not bowlegged, but he does wear white sneakers.
The other characters at the spaceport pale alongside Connery, who maintains the toughness and charisma he had as James Bond. As antagonist, Peter Boyle is no Goldfinger. He's not mean, he just slowly sours as the general manager of the titanium franchise who has invited a drug ring in to stay. He doesn't seem greedy enough to let the miners hop themselves up with amphetamines so they work harder, only to become psychotic and start offing themselves in the "zero atmosphere."
"Outland" is not a place of fantastic mechanical wizardry -- the computers can't even spell. Instead the special effects all have to do with what happens to buildings and people when they're abruptly depressurized.
"Outland" has the fascination of an ant colony. The miners inhabit tight quarters, sleep bunk on bunk, eat in a low-ceilinged, grubby institutional cafeteria, shower together, suit up together, pass along prostitutes. And it's dark as a dungeon down in the mine, where the work is done in space suits and in space helmets. It must be very dark to the miners, as each helmet is lined with dozens of tiny white lights -- a fine device for illuminating actors' faces, but can they see out?
All the crowding has made the workers a bit apathetic, and Connery can recruit only one helper: the doctor, played with bright crotchetiness by Frances Sternhagen.
Why does Connery care? Because everywhere he goes an electronic display on the wall tells him the shuttle carrying the hit men is "in transit," and arrival is imminent. And he's got this hero thing: "They sent me here to this pile of s--- because they think I belong here," says Connery. "I want to find out if they're right."
So he takes it on single-handedly, never reporting to his superiors back on earth, if he has any, and seeking his quary on surveillance screens, between racquetball games. When he finds the hit men, he uses a rifle instead of a raygun.
A drug awareness program might've worked, but a gunfight at the Io corral is more exciting.
OUTLAND -- At area theaters