Tag Archives: The Presidio (1988)

The Presidio (1988) a (very) belated review

I’ve always been kinda/sorta fascinated by the works of director Peter Hyams.  While he may not be a terribly well known director, he’s made some pulpy films that have lingered in my mind over the years.  They may not always be the most original works, they do have their interesting elements.

Among the many films he’s directed is the Mars landing conspiracy thriller Capricorn One, the remarkably not all that bad 2010 (a sequel to the classic Stanley Kubrick directed 2001: A Space Odyssey), and two of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s better movie outings, Sudden Death and Time Cop.

Mr. Hyams also made two films with Sean Connery, the Alien set/visuals-inspired and High Noon story-inspired Outland and The Presidio.  Here’s the trailer to The Presidio:

I have to say up front: Unlike the many Peter Hyams directed films I mentioned above, there was little I recalled about The Presidio, which I only saw once many, many years ago.  The things I remembered about the film were a) Meg Ryan looked really attractive and b) the characters played by Sean Connery and Mark Harmon were constantly arguing.

Anyway, fast forward to a few months ago and the film was airing on some cable channel and I recorded it to my DVR.  It lingered there, recorded but unwatched, until yesterday when I had a little bit of free time and decided to give the film a go.

The first thing that struck me about the film, and you can catch glimpses of it in the above trailer, is the appearance of Jenette Goldstein as the victim of a murderer -this happens quite literally in the movie’s first few minutes so I don’t feel its a terribly big spoiler- and that sets off the movie’s story.  I point her out because she’s only a couple of years removed from her role as Private Vasquez in Aliens and, because she’s dressed in military green, still looks very much like that famous character.

Anyway, so we have her mysterious murder within the Presidio, the famous San Francisco military academy, and that in turn leads to Mark Harmon’s detective Jay Austin meeting up with Sean Connery’s Lt. Col. Alan Caldwell, the head MP of the Presidio and the man in charge of the case there.

The two have, we soon find, a history.  Austin used to be an MP under Caldwell and at some point he broke from the academy and became a police detective.  He doesn’t care for Caldwell much and the feeling is mutual.

However, because the murder occurred on the Presidio’s grounds, of course the two are eventually forced to partner up.  And it is when Austin heads to Caldwell’s home that he finds the man’s daughter, Donna (Meg Ryan, natch) and the attraction is instant.

Things move on and the conspiracy is eventually exposed but the fact that I couldn’t recall much of the film all these years later becomes more evident as I watched it.

To be blunt, the film isn’t all that good, even though it features a typically strong Connery performance, a charismatic turn by Ms. Ryan, and a so-so turn by Harmon.  I can’t be too harsh regarding Harmon as his character is pretty one note as written: Brash and handsome, handsome and brash.  What may be interesting to some is to see Mark Harmon play essentially a younger, brasher version of his character on N.C.I.S.

The story turns out to be a rather uninteresting one with one “big” surprise regarding one of the ancillary characters that is so obvious that even newborns should see it coming (though, of course, our leads didn’t).

Worse and especially early in the film it seemed we were jumping forward, story-wise, to the point of near incoherence.  I feel like there were scenes missing which were meant to elaborate on Donna and Austin’s relationship.  Perhaps they were filmed and clipped from the final cut or perhaps they were dumped in the screenwriting stage, but nonetheless there were times it felt like I was missing something.

For example, there is a scene which suddenly occurs where Austin and Donna are at an officer’s/military dinner and her father is at another table, seething as he watches them.  Donna acts up and provokes Austin into a fight.

There is no lead up to this scene -either that or I fell asleep for a moment or two and missed it.  One moment Austin and Caldwell are investigating the murder and suddenly they’re all at that military party and Donna’s acting like a crazy person.

A little before that scene there is one where Austin and Donna are walking on a beach and Austin very clumsily states his love for Donna, noting how he’s come to feel this way after seeing her all this time.  At that point in the film I believe we only had them together twice, the first time they “meet cute” and then when they first go out!

Weird, huh?  As I said, I get the feeling there was more to the whole Donna/Austin relationship but romance was torpedoed in favor of action/mystery.

Anyway, I can’t recommend The Presidio, even to hard core Peter Hyams (there are some of you out there, no?), Sean Connery, Meg Ryan, or Mark Harmon fans.  There simply isn’t enough “there” there to justify the time.

Too bad.