Picks and Pans Review: Sneakers

updated 09/14/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/14/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Robert Redford, Sidney Pokier, Ben Kingsley David Strathairn, River Phoenix, Mary McDonnell, Dan Aykroyd

If it were any more slick, it would slide right off the projector, but this retro caper film does benefit from an energetic high-tech plot and a refreshingly playful performance by Redford.

Director Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams) does slop dotty paranoia into the plot, blaming the federal government for John Kennedy's death, the "framing" of Pete Rose and a coverup of UFO visits. The point, though, is lamenting computerization.

Redford is a '60s radical whose company tests security systems by invading buildings and computers. These raids recall the rewiring and duct-crawling of Mission: Impossible. But Redford's likable team includes:

Aykroyd as an electronics whiz;

Poitier as a CIA operative turned security expert;

Strathairn (City of Hope) as a blind audio technician.

The stiff, inexpressive McDonnell (Dances with Wolves) is Redford's ex-girlfriend, who joins the team as a foil.

When the team finds a Russian cryptographer who has invented a revolutionary code-breaking device, they alienate both the feds and Kingsley, Redford's old buddy gone crooked.

Robinson and cowriters Lawrence Lasker and Walter Parkes (collaborators on WarGames) keep the plot lively. Moreover, while Redford and his pals are common crooks, they aren't repugnant.

The technojargon flies thick at times, but most of the gimmickry is understandable. While Robinson never sells his ideas about a Big Brotherish conspiracy, he peddles the short-term caper tale well. (PG-13)

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