Picks and Pans Review: Narrow Margin

updated 10/29/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/29/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Gene Hackman, Anne Archer

Marie Windsor and Charles McGraw were solid second-line actors in '40s-'60s movies. Windsor, though, did too many films like Cat Women of the Moon; McGraw landed too often in tough-guy gigs like T-Men.

Now here are Archer and Hackman, 38 years after the fact, upstaging them in a star vehicle remake of a film that contained probably the best roles Windsor and McGraw ever came close to.

Archer and Hackman are predictably smooth, and director Peter (Running Scared) Hyams should be able to do this kind of thing in his sleep by now.

But while the screenplay for the 1952 film won an Oscar nomination for Martin Goldsmith and Jack Leonard, the only slightly altered plot seems painfully dated now.

Hackman, as an L.A. deputy D.A., wants to escort Archer, a witness to a mob murder, back to California from her Canadian hiding place. The bad guys trap them on a long train trip but are wildly incompetent. This puts them in the same leaky boat with Hyams's script, which includes the old they-never-look-behind-the-door gambit and the traditional fight-on-a-top-of-a-speeding-train extravaganza.

Hyams peps things up once in a while. As a weapon-toting gunman closes in. Archer asks Hackman, "How do we stop him?"

"We don't," he says.

"Want me to set out some hors d'oeuvres?" she replies sarcastically.

More of that kind of livening up would have been welcome. As it is, the movie is neither funny nor scary, serving little purpose other than to revive the odd memory of Windsor and McGraw' (R)

From Our Partners