Picks and Pans Review: Hidden Agenda

updated 12/10/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/10/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Frances McDormand, Brian Cox

The main function of this movie is to make you appreciate director Constantin Costa-Gavras, who in State of Siege and Z made complex foreign political situations both comprehensible and humanly involving.

This is another leaden cinematic attempt to address Northern Ireland's "Troubles." Directed and written by Englishmen Ken Loach and Jim Allen, it is confusing and disputatious, with a political tract instead of a script.

McDormand (Darkman) is part of an international civil-liberties team investigating the situation in Northern Ireland when a double murder takes placeā€”one that is obviously the work of government forces, not the Irish Republican Army.

McDormand then joins forces with Cox, the staunch BBC veteran, playing a British police internal investigator. They pursue a convoluted trail that leads to, among others, the CIA and British government leaders.

These details and the movie's indictment of Britain as an unscrupulous colonial power could conceivably be true. But you'll never be persuaded of that by Hidden Agenda. Allen's stiff dialogue has Cox say: "I've always believed that given half a chance the system would work." Someone else says, "Remember, inflation was running rife." Ken! Jim! When was the last time you heard the phrase "running rife" in daily conversation? And McDormand lectures indignantly, "Am I wrong, or is it illegal to kill people and try to steal a country?"

No, you're not. Yes, it is. Next case. (R)

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