Saturday, February 9, 2013

Clear and Present Danger

I am in Bogota, taking care of my son for a few days while my wife is out of town at a work function.  Every night after putting little Sam to bed (which he has thankfully been very cooperative with lately), I've been watching dumb movies on Netflix.  In part it's because Netflix mainly offers bad movies in Colombia (I don't know if this is because the streaming rights aren't available for all films, or if they just scorn Colombians' moviegoing tastes), and in part because I want to save what few good movies there are for when Caro's around, and get guilty pleasure watching action movies when I'm on my own.

At any rate, last night I finished watching "A Clear and Present Danger".  Despite relatively good reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and no screaming criticisms anywhere online, I have to say it's a really bad movie.  Most of it is just unrealistic and preposterous; I mean, the 50-year-old head of the CIA goes unaccompanied into the jungles of Colombia to kick some ass.  Wouldn't he be able to delegate that to someone?  Ditto for the cavalcade of high-level US government brass whose security detail consists in a bunch of guys with handguns in the same car as each CIA bigwig, and a Colombian traffic cop on a motorcycle to block off intersections for the passing cars.

Aside from the preposterous plot, I was amazed at how poorly-researched and off-the-mark the depictions of Colombia were.  First off, except for an establishing subtitled shot, all the Latin Americans in the movie (one of them played by a Portuguese actor!) talk amongst themselves in comically-accented English, instead of the Spanish that would seem more logical when in a group of exclusively native Spanish speakers.  The Colombia scenes are all shot in Mexico, which is understandable given security in Colombia in 1994, but for anyone who has ever been to Colombia, there is no resemblance.  The countryside around Cali looks like dusty Mexican ranches, and Bogota looks like a sleepy Mexican colonial town, or maybe Old Havana.  There are a few shots inside airports and office buildings with a view that could pass for Bogota, and the wet coffee/jungle vegetation in a few scenes is pretty much like most of mid-altitude Colombia.  But apparently it never occurred to the filmmakers that you can't just substitute one country for any other, even if they personally seem to you like indistinguishable Hispanic Third World slimepits.

They don't just mix up Mexican and Colombian visuals, but culture, too.  Harrison Ford quips to a colleague that Colombian food is just like Mexican food, which is about like saying Italian food and Irish food are the same thing, and he advises the same colleague not to drink or brush his teeth with Bogota's water, which is in fact potable and tastes good.

I'm not into the shrill take-offense-a-thon that defines so much of discourse in the US today, but I can't believe no one called out the filmmakers on all this.  I'm not even offended, just amazed that they wouldn't have done some basic research.  I'm sure they had the money to.

At any rate, bad or not, it's a fresh change to see a movie where the terrorist bad guys are not the same old Arab fanatics that have become a trope in modern pop culture.  Likewise in Patriot Games, the prequel to Clear and Present Danger, in which the villains are our extremist Irish friends from an IRA splinter group.

Tonight's offering?  The Hunt for Red October!!!!

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