Picks and Pans Review: The Fourth Protocol

updated 09/07/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/07/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Take a James Bond film about some Soviet agents planting a nuclear bomb on an American air base in Britain. Subtract the flashy hardware, the flashy women and the flashy locations. Throw a burlap sack over the sardonic quips. Now add the never-to-be-underestimated presence of that actor for all seasons, Michael Caine. Presto! One very routine, totally tolerable British spy thriller, coming up. Caine played the same sort of smugly nonconformist intelligence operative in such superior '60s films as The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin. (His character in those movies, Harry Palmer, showed all the vulnerability and common sense Bond lacked.) In this film he's trying to track down Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan plays a ruthless KGB agent who is as stolid as a slab of cement—he hardly has a dozen lines in the movie, even though he's onscreen as much as Caine. Brosnan has been assigned to plant the bomb by another one of those out-of-control KGB officers who show up so often these days. (The Soviets in the film all speak with no accent, which gets confusing when characters aren't in uniform. And as a Soviet general, Ned Beatty looks a lot like a high school football coach from North Dakota.) Assigned to help Brosnan is a weapons expert played by Joanna (Under Fire) Cassidy. She is impressively solemn in a limited role, but she is upstaged by her own left breast. While it is a perfectly attractive breast, it is not so wildly attractive that it deserves to make dramatic appearances in five scenes, most of them gratuitous. Nonetheless it's clear where the movie is headed: a showdown between Brosnan and Caine, which they bring off efficiently, if not explosively. The script, which is full of spy-movie double-crosses and cynical talk, was written by Frederick Forsyth from his novel. Other people, however, got "screen story adapted by" and "additional material by" credits, suggesting that espionage is not the only field of human endeavor where things get complicated. (R)

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