Picks and Pans Review: Crimson Tide

updated 05/15/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/15/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington, George Dzundza

Action-movie fans, rejoice! The Cold War is back, courtesy of Top Gun. producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott. They have revived it with a visually stunning but aurally dim film that seems to have been blended from parts of The Hunt for Red October, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, In the Heat of the Night and Run Silent, Run Deep.

Hackman and Washington carry Michael Schiffer's bulky screenplay on their stalwart backs as, respectively, the feuding commander and executive officer of a U.S. missile submarine. The Alabama, as it's called, is on patrol because a civil war in Russia has led to threats of a global nuclear war. (The convoluted explanation for this situation is only one crucial detail lost to the ineptness of sound mixer William Kaplan, who lets the audience hear ambient noise better than the dialogue.)

Hackman is an old-line combat sailor, so hard-boiled and self-important he smokes his stinky cigar even aboard his submerged submarine and insists on letting his silly little Jack Russell terrier urinate in the ship's gangways. Washington is a soft, philosophical Harvard grad who is palsy-walsy with the crew and is inclined to question orders. The two officers bicker and debate such topics as the origin of Lippizaner stallions even as their ship, on missile launch alert, could at any moment start a nuclear war.

Hackman's and Washington's final confrontation is over whether their orders to launch their missiles are authentic. A mutiny subplot serves mainly to highlight the weakness of the supporting cast, other than Dzundza as the standard-issue noncom who really runs the ship. All the submarine-movie clichés are honored, from the undersea sub-versus-sub battle to the flooding ship to the closeups of sweating faces.

It doesn't make lots of sense, but this is an old-fashioned "guy" movie—no Hugh Grant, no Brad Pitt, no Keanu Reeves, and mostly combat, even if too much of it is verbal. (R)

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