Picks and Pans Review: No Way Out

updated 08/24/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/24/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

When a plot coincides with breaking news, the result is usually a pale imitation of life, which this Washington thriller ably demonstrates. If you're going to conjure up capital intrigue this summer, it had better beat the drama of the Iran-contra hearings. Like the hearings, this movie features a handsome idealist who may or may not have been bamboozled by his superiors: Kevin Costner, who becomes the fall guy in a Pentagon cover-up. Although this could have been made into a suspenseful spy chase—a sort of Oliver North by Northwest—Robert Garland's script is usually two steps behind the audience. Sure, his climactic twist is a genuine shocker. But that epilogue functions mainly as an apologia for the previous lack of zest. New Zealander Roger (The Bounty) Donaldson's stillborn direction doesn't show any fresh perspective on American shenanigans. He seems to have shoplifted the cold, cunning tone of his movie from All the President's Men and The Conversation. Even John Poindexter's testimony was more involving. Then too, this movie pivots upon Costner's smug smile—and wiping it off his face. But cast as the classic leading man, Costner plays it all too straight—colorless, chilly, narcissistic. While it was filmed before The Untouchables, No Way Out was kept on the shelf for months waiting for Costner's popularity to grow, and that shows in the anachronistic casual-sex scenes with Sean (Blade Runner) Young. The setting is supposed to be the present, but in the opening sequence, Costner picks Young up at a black-tie function and they make love in a limo before exchanging names. Welcome to the good old days, safe-sex fans. While the dated details and 1987's real-life scandal are damaging, No Way Out is not just a victim of bad timing. As befits the title, it dead-ends long before it's over. (R)

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