Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Hispanic writer & director José Gutiérrez Maesso has helped pen screenplays for several exciting actioneers, including "Ricco, The Mean Machine," "Train from Durango," "The Hellbenders," "Minnesota Clay" and "Django." Maessco's co-scenarist Massimo De Rita has an interesting list of screenplay credits: "The Valachi Papers," "Companeros," "Violent City," and "Hell's Brigade: The Final Assault." If this surfeit of talent weren't enough, Eugenio Martino of "Bad Man's River," "The Ugly Ones," and "Horror Express" contributed to the "Order to Kill" screenplay. Arduino Maiuri co-scripted De Rita's credits. Finally, Santiago Moncada added his pen to "Ricco, The Mean Machine" as well as "Hatchet for a Honeymoon." As collaborators, this talented quintet should have delivered more exciting showdowns between more colorful characters with enough last-minute reversals to distract us from the obvious ending. Instead, they have concocted a routine potboiler. "Order to Kill" (** out of ****) is enlivened by occasional outbursts of violence. Essentially, this lackluster crime and corruption melodrama concerns a feud between a veteran cop, Inspector Fred Reed (José Ferrer of "The Caine Mutiny") and a wealthy villain, Ed McLean (Kevin McCarthy of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers") who loves to fly around in a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter like the one on the Tom Selleck TV show “Magnum, P.I.”

"Order to Kill" shows initial promise. Appropriately, it opens with a murder, a rather elaborate but far-fetched execution. An assassin, Albert Webster (Romano Puppo of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"), relies on a gadget that will indicate when the railway car in which his target is riding in will align itself with his own railway carriage. At the precise instant, when the two railway cars are opposite each other, Albert squeezes off a burst of machine gun fire into the opposing carriage, killing his target. Albert later describes his target as a McLean
competitor. No sooner has Albert carried out this assignment than he finds himself the target of a manhunt. Clyde Hart (Helmut Berger of "The Damned") has trouble killing his friends.

Clyde's girlfriend Anne Holden (Sydne Rome of "Sundance and the Kid") tries to persuade him not to accept the murder contract. This will be Clyde's first actual hit-man contract, and Clyde reminds Anne that they need the money. Clyde has orders to kill Albert, but he balks when he recognizes his old friend Albert. This doesn't stop another assassin from shooting Albert. Afterward, Clyde goes to the casino to pick up his money. Peter Costello already knows Clyde didn't liquidate Albert. Gastel wants to know why Clyde wants out. "I'm tired of palm trees," Clyde groans. Gastel reminds Clyde about Jamaica, "Try and remember this is an island. No one can leave it unless McLean says it's okay. And in your case, I'm afraid he's not going to say it's okay." A brief gunfight erupts in the casino, and Clyde kills three of Peter's men. Later, another McLean mobster, ruthless Richard Prentice (Howard Ross) shows up and kills Gastel in cold-blood because McLean is not happy with Gastel.

Meanwhile, Clyde relaxes with Anne at the beach. He assures his blond girlfriend that they will make it off the island. The following day they go to get their boat and discover that McLean's thugs have not only beat up the boat owner but destroyed the outboard engine. Clyde doesn't get far before McLean's ruffians beat him down to the ground and leave him sprawled unconscious in the street. Anne takes him to a native woman they both know and Clyde recuperates there. Plainclothes police turn up and they take Clyde into custody. Inspector Fred Reed (José Ferrer) pulls strings and has Clyde put into his custody. Reed knows everything about Clyde's background. For example, Reed knows Clyde emigrated to America with his German parents. After spending to two years at USC, Clyde went to Vietnam, deserted and then got on McLean's payroll. He is tired of running when Reed picks him up. Reed shows Clyde that there is no way off the island. Reed wants Clyde to train three other men--Juan, Danielle, and Hugo--and then hit McLean and kill him. Clyde observes that he has never been asked to kill anybody by the police. Reed warns Clyde that one of the three will kill him if he tries to make a break for it.

Meanwhile, Reed has a telephone conversation with McLean. McLean knows
that Reed plans to retire in a couple of months. Instead of leaving McLean alone, Reed still wants to kill him. McLean accuses the inspector of nursing a 15-year personal grudge against him. He points out to Reed that Reed refuses to accept bribes and doesn't abide by the orders of his superiors to leave Mclean alone. Clyde and the three men practice getting atop a 18-wheeler without being seen. Reed has laid out a plan for them to break into McLean's compound, blow-up the big rig, and kill him. By now Anne regards Clyde as "a walking corpse" and wants nothing to do with him. She hates going to bed with Richard but fears that he will kill her if she doesn't accommodate him.

Later, Richard locates Reed and lines up the cross-hairs of his sniper scope on the old cop. Clyde and his men sneak aboard the 18-wheeler heading into McLean's place. They blow up the tractor-trailer, wipe out McLean's men, but Clyde doesn't kill McLean. Hugo winds up having to shoot McLean. When Clyde calls Reed to inform him of their success, he gets Richard to shoots and kills Reed on the phone so Clyde can hear it. Clyde heads off to tangle with Richard. Basically, everybody bites the dust in this cynical melodrama.

The obvious moral of this conventional but cynical shoot'em up is if you live by
the gun, then you will die by the gun. "Order to Kill" never generates any momentum. Everything is rather matter-of-fact. The quintet of scribes do serve up some spicy dialogue: "It's funny, whenever they give me a dirty job to do, they wish me good luck." "It's too late for doubt." "You're under orders to do it." The premise about a cop resorting to illegal means to dispose of a high-level mobster is mildly intriguing, but the film falls apart half-way into the second act that not even the sloppily handled combat scenes in act three can salvage. Interestingly, there are no zoom shots here back when zoom shots were the rage.

No comments: