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‘McBain’ (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 12, 1992

It's said that a dog is man's best friend, but that depends, I guess, on the dog. This dog, for example, is no man's friend. Regardless, "McBain," which stars Christopher Walken and Maria Conchita Alonso, is about friendship and its obligations -- that and, despite Alonso's presence, a rarefied variety of male bonding.

In the opening moments of this crude piece of xenophobic propaganda, McBain (Walken) is a much-abused POW, rescued from a squad of evil Viet Cong by a team of American soldiers who risk their lives to save their countrymen even though it's already been announced that the war is over. (We know the enemy commander is an odious dude because he wears a necklace of human ears.) The rescue results in a pact of honor between McBain and a heroic soldier named Santos (Chick Vennera), who rips up a $100 bill and hands half of it to Walken. "If you ever meet the other half of this bill," he says, "you can pay me back."

Or something to that effect.

Flash forward 18 years to Colombia, where Santos is the leader of a revolutionary movement fighting to seize control from the corrupt, drug-dealing presidente. (No ear necklace, but just as nasty.) After Santos is killed in a coup attempt, his sister, Cristina (Alonso), comes to America carrying the other half of the C-note. Time to go to work. What, after all, are friends for if not to take over your country for you?

This is patent nonsense, of course, and typical of the brotherhood of macho action that writer-director James Glickenhaus has carved out as his special province. Glickenhaus is a Peckinpah wannabe; he loves to unleash the dogs of war. He's a conflagration artist; a fireball is his Mona Lisa. But if you've seen one fireball, you've pretty much seen them all.

For Walken, Hollywood's resident extraterrestrial, this is routine work; he's done the dogs-of-war thing before -- both literally and figuratively -- though he does have one sublimely strange moment in which he poses as an Israeli tough guy. It's the only scene in which the real Christopher Walken -- the one with kaleidoscope eyes -- steps forward.

As for Alonso, she may have rebel support, but none of the cross-your-heart sort, and that's the sum total of her revolutionary qualifications. Her wardrobe sets a new dress code standard for military coups. When storming the enemy palace, there's nothing like a little off-the-shoulder number. Or a loose-fitting tank top. Distracts the enemy, you know. Betcha didn't read that in Women's Wear Daily.

"McBain" is rated R, for strong war violence, language and drug use.

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