Picks and Pans Review: Year of the Gun

updated 11/18/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/18/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Andrew McCarthy, Valeria Golino

Back in the mid-'80s, when it still looked as if the Brat Pack was destined to rule movies, actor Andrew McCarthy managed to hint at a nascent intellect and drive while playing overly sensitive youths in such dopey vehicles as Heaven Help Us and St. Elmo's Fire. What a disappointment, then, to discover here, in this decidedly second-rate thriller from director John Frankenheimer (whose first-rate thrillers include The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May), that McCarthy has grown up to be such a wimpy leading man.

In Gun he plays David, an American journalist living in Rome in 1978, when Italy was beset by the Red Brigades, a political-terrorist group given to kidnappings and assassinations. David wants only to be an observer ("Americans in Rome don't need politics; they need American Express cards," he believes) but finds himself, via friends and lovers, inexorably drawn into the violence and treachery surrounding him.

In a role that begs for moral acuity and sexual swagger—remember Kevin Costner in No Way Out?—McCarthy demonstrates neither, instead spending the movie looking as if he has an ulcer and is wondering where his next glass of milk is coming from. As for his costars, Valeria (Rain Man) Golino, playing his Italian girlfriend, adroitly wipes McCarthy off the screen in their scenes together, while Sharon (Total Recall) Stone, playing a gung ho American photojournalist, is jarringly bad, acting more like a dim debutante than a hotshot lenser avidly chasing a story.

Frankenheimer was right to think that there is potential for a fine thriller pegged to the Red Brigades, but Gun isn't it. How could it be when David Ambrose's script (based on a novel by Michael Mewshaw) boasts howlers so bad you'll smack your forehead at their sheer clunkiness. "Doesn't it bum you out," Stone asks McCarthy, "not to connect with what's going on in this country?" Yep, bum us out is right. (R)

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