North Sea Hijack (1980)

6 Oct

220px-north_sea_hijack

When a mad man takes over a major oil refinery and threatens to blow it up unless the British Government pays a ransom, there’s only one man who can save the day…

Taking a break from his James Bond duties, Roger Moore stars as the wonderfully named Rufus Excalibur ffolkes, a cat-loving, gin-swilling misanthrope who is hired to foil the plot of a mad bomber Lou Kramer (played by Anthony Perkins).

Directed by Andrew V. MacLagen (most famous for the 1978 action picture The Wild Geese), North Sea Hijack came out in 1980, wedged between Moore’s appearances in Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only.

More of a straight thriller than an action adventure like the Bonds, the chief joy of this film is its leading man. Casting off the easy-going persona he’s shouldered since the Saint TV show, Moore has a great time playing a total prick. While he can’t sell the machismo, his cultured tones make ffolkes’ abrasiveness more funny than off-putting.

As far as supporting players go, James Mason is the standout. He adds a touch of class as Admiral Brindsen, who is stuck between the eccentric ffolkes and the unstable Kramer.

Speaking of the bad guy, Perkins is surprisingly ineffective. Playing a tough, unstable psychopath Perkins is never entirely convincing. He just seems too nice to make his abrasiveness come off as threatening. What was scary about him in Psycho, his sense of vulnerability, is a weakness here. He’s not terrible, but the role does not fit him.

More effective is Michael Parks as Kramer’s skeevy second-in-command. Milking his small role for all it’s worth, Parks is far creepier than Perkins, turning his stock character into a cruel, weak little imp who takes pleasure in the the hostages’ distress.

The movie as a whole is a solid, old-fashioned thriller. It takes a while to get going, and while MacLagen’s direction is competent it lacks the sweep and tension the material demands. In its favour, the Blu Ray transfer is excellent and the movie gets more involving as the movie heads into the final confrontation between ffolkes and Kramer.

Ultimately, North Sea Hijack is decent but — Moore’s performance aside — unspectacular entertainment.

 

By Tim George

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