The Rescue

March 24, 2020

rescue1Even though it’s only a silly action flick, The Rescue feels seriously out of date. If this thing had been released at the height of the 1984 flag-waving frenzy, when fantasy movies about hostage rescues were all the rage, then it might have had a chance.

But Chuck Norris no longer searches for the missing in action, and even Rambo has taken a header this summer. The Rescue is some sort of mid-’80s relic.

And a particularly ludicrously conceived one at that. When a crack American task force is captured on a secret mission off the coast of North Korea, the U.S. government chills a plan to go in and rescue them. As usual in these movies, the government is lily-livered and ineffective. (The unnamed president, we are assured, “would be in there in a minute” if it were up to him, but his hands are tied.)

While the American soldiers are languishing in a prison camp, their children – yes, their children – decide that it’s time to take matters into their own hands. So five spunky offspring steal the secret plans of the North Korean camp. And then they move in.

Audiences have been giggling for months now at this premise, as presented by coming-attractions trailers. (The idea is an echo of Iron Eagle, in which a teen stole a jet to nab his imprisoned father from a Middle Eastern hostage camp.) In full-length form, the concept isn’t much less ridiculous, especially in such moments as the kids putting aside the enormity of invading a hostile Communist country and inviting certain death in order to decide whether they should let a girl go along.

The kids involved are played by Kevin Dillon (Matt’s little brother, also on display this weekend in the remake of The Blob), Christina Harnos, Ned Vaughn, Mare Price and Ian Giatti. They are more-or-less serviceable, fulfilling the usual roles the moody one, the square one, the funny one, etc.

Two things can be said for this movie. One is that the locations are spectacular; ace cameraman Russell Boyd makes the mountains of New Zealand double for Korea.

The other thing is that Ferdinand Fairfax (Nate and Hayes) has directed it about as well as anyone could have, given the material. The script, by Jim Thomas and John Thomas, would be a tough assignment for any director with the slightest sense of the real world, but Fairfax actually puts some zip into a couple of sequences, and in the big prison-breakout scene, really works up a lather. But at that point, nothing can bust this film out.

First published in the Herald, August 1988

From this distance, the idea – kids rescuing their SEAL daddies – doesn’t sound especially strange, but then I’ve been worn down by decades of high concept. I note the participation of director Fairfax, whose Nates and Hayes does have some zip, and who went back into British TV after this for a nice long career (he died in 2008). The screenwriters had just come off the success of Predator.

Nate and Hayes

March 4, 2011

November. The word itself seems to encourage inactivity: it’s a fat, lazy month full of food and football, a languid lull before the storm of the holiday season.

Novemberitis has traditionally infected movie studios as much as anybody else; it’s usually a slack time for new movies, as distributors prepare to release all their blockbusters during the Christmas holidays.

This is the time of year when small, serious films find their way to movie screens. Titles such as Testament, Boat People, and Nicaragua: Report From the Front, have all appeared locally in the last fortnight. Ambitious films such as Bob Fosse’s Star 80 get their couple of weeks in the sun before the December onslaught.

But the studios can’t give the hungry public a steady diet of art films. Besides, there must be something offbeat sitting on the shelves, some weird little movie that didn’t seem releasable before; why not spring it on an unsuspecting nation during this slow November?

Maybe that’s what Nate and Hayes is. Believe me, I don’t know what other explanation to give. Nate and Hayes is this pirate movie, with Tommy Lee Jones as the swashbuckling “Bully Hayes,” whose real-life adventures are on vivid display.

Did I say real-life? Sorry. That could be misleading; nothing in Nate and Hayes comes close to resembling reality as we know it. But that’s okay; the idea here is to present non-stop action a la Raiders of the Lost Ark, not give a documentary account of the hardships of pirate life.

This Hayes fellow escorts a young missionary couple to a South Sea island. Later, when the girl is kidnapped by a band of marauders, Hayes helps the young hero recover the bride. Complication: Hayes loves the lass, too.

It’s the latest retelling of the 1956 western The Searchers, a favorite of young filmmakers for years (Star Wars was partially inspired by it). This time out, it’s done with jokes and acrobatics, and no time out for characterization or seriousness.

The surprising thing is that some of this is pretty enjoyable. The dialogue bulges with wisecracks, probably from the pen of John Hughes, who has scripted a lot of National Lampoon projects. And director Ferdinand Fairfax has given an appropriate flair to the cartoonish proceedings, especially during the exciting opening sequence, during which Hayes runs guns and trades one-liners with some unimpressed women savages.

So, great art it’s not. And it takes a long time in completing its 90 minutes of life. But, if I were a 10-year-old, I might find Nate and Hayes very easy to take, especially on a rainy November afternoon when there wasn’t much new on TV anyway.

First published in the Herald, November 17, 1983

No such dewy lyrical reflection on the attributes of November is possible today; if the Christmas season isn’t in full swing by November 10, something is very wrong in Hollywood. This odd picture is suspected by some IMDb posters as being the basis for the plot of Pirates of the Caribbean, but it seems more likely that both draw from the same generic well. I didn’t bother to mention that Michael O’Keefe, whose name actually sounds like a pirate, played the other title role in the film; this was just after The Great Santini and Caddyshack, so O’Keefe looked as though he might be turning into something. His next film was Richard Lester’s Finder Keepers, which memory tells me had its moments, but after that he turned into a working actor. I think the film’s original title was Savage Islands, and I remember thinking at the time of its release how lame a title Nate and Hayes was, a desperate attempt to make the movie sound like a buddy film (and giving the wrong guy top billing, too). The other funny note is John Hughes, still a year away from breaking through.