Picks and Pans Review: Red King, White Knight

updated 11/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

HBO (Sat., Nov. 25, 8 P.M. ET)

A-

In a gripping cloak-and-dagger thriller, KGB hard-liners, appalled by glasnost, recruit an IRA assassin to kill Gorbachev during a visit to Eastern Europe. Tom Skerritt plays a former CIA agent, a spook spooked by his wife's tragic death and retired from the Company because of heavy drinking. Chosen for his "deniability," he is sent behind the Iron Curtain to look into this plot but isn't given the whole picture.

Skerritt is extremely good as the battered pawn who slowly comes to realize the stakes in this game. Also fine in supporting roles are Barry Corbin as the shady Washington go-between and Gavin O'Herlihy as the assassin. None of them has a lot to say, but all manage to convey plenty without speaking. Skerritt, in particular, grows more attractively weathered with each passing year.

All in all, this is a quality production. Some of the scenes among covert policymakers in Washington are too talky, and the denouement is a little hectic, but Red King, White Knight is still the equal of recent big-screen espionage thrillers like The Package and The Fourth Protocol.

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