The Film: The Peacemaker (1997)
The Principles: Mimi Leder (Director). Michael Schiffer (Screenwriter). George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Marcel Iures, Alexander Baluyev, Sebastian Roche, Rene Medvesek, Randall Batinkoff, Holt McCallany, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Carlos Gomez, Thom Matthews, Goran Visnjic, Michael Boatman, etc.
The Premise: Hot-headed badass Colonel Devoe (Clooney) and even-tempered Dr. Kelly (Kidman) must stop a rogue terrorist from detonating a stolen Russian nuke in the U.S.
Is It Good?: It’s a’ight. Nothing particularly special. Just a decent actioner that happens to star George Clooney before the likes of Steven Soderbergh and the Coen Brothers got their hands on him. ‘Twas a different era for Clooney then. Not yet a filmmaker in his own right. E.R. was still going strong for him. He had just seen his name light up the marquee with From Dusk ‘Till Dawn and One Fine Day and was about to plunge into infamy with Batman & Robin, which was released only months after this mostly forgotten flick. 1997 was just not a good year for George at the box office. Lucky for us he took the wake up call he was given and sidestepped into making the likes of Out of Sight and Three Kings over the next two years. Still, I have to say I wouldn’t have minded another occasional rough-and-tumble Clooney effort or two in the years since and hope that he gives it another shot at some point.
In retrospect, it is easy to mark The Peacemaker (and others listed below) as a stepping stone between the Tom Clancy adaptations of the early ’90s and the James Bond/Jason Bourne films of the ’00s & ’10s. This is both The Peacemaker‘s blessing and its curse. On the one hand, it wants to be the sort of smart, but fun action flick that had been embodied by the character of Jack Ryan (Baldwin/Ford) years beforehand. On the other, it wanted to take a harder edge with a trained killer as its hero. It succeeds in doing neither, but you have to give it credit for trying. This feels like a knock-off to a John Clark spin-off with Willem Dafoe that was never made. It is also placed firmly in the exact same tonal territory as Daniel Craig’s on-going run as Jason Bond. Like another proto-Bourne/Bond 2.0 film, Van Damme’s Maximum Risk, it just seems audiences weren’t quite ready for it. The fact that it is mediocre in its execution doesn’t do it any favors either. The premise is sound, it has a good cast, and there isn’t anything particularly wrong with the script. What sinks this film is the direction. In the hands of a filmmaker more gifted in this genre, The Peacemaker could have been an effort that we fondly looked back on. Unfortunately, Mimi Leder (Deep Impact, Pay It Forward) just doesn’t have enough energy and style on display. The film is flat as hell and sequences that should pop off the screen contain virtually none of the visual kineticism that they so desperately need. We needed a Phillip Noyce, a John McTiernan, or a Renny Harlin at the helm. Instead we end up with a choice that churns out a film as visually bland as latter day Brosnan Bond flick. Ugh.
Still, how often do you see a hero watch his friend murdered in front of him, drive off to escape impending doom, and then double back to make sure that the occupants of the cars he took out of commission during said escape aren’t left alive to further hinder his mission? Colonel Devoe is one seriously deranged fella and honestly a character I wouldn’t have minded seeing George reprise. It’s like watching a version Clear & Present Danger starring LIAM NEESONS instead of Harrison Ford. Bribe or threaten the corrupt businessman for info? Nah, let’s just torture him immediately after the first time he claims to know nothing. The fatally shot secondary villain is bleeding out and you have time to question him, but he makes a smartass remark after your first question? Fuck him! Let him die and go on about your business. Clooney ain’t got time for no villainous shenanigans. Cap the fucker and move onto the next baddie. Mission fuckin’ accomplished. What a weird protagonist? Seriously, even on the cover of the Blu-ray release, Kidman looks concerned about what he might do next. And she should be.
Truth be told, this is EXACTLY the kind of film I want out of Bond 24. A globe-trotting adventure to stop a madman from setting off a weapon of mass destruction with a hero who does whatever he feels like at any given moment? Add in a healthy dose of the classic 007 elements that everyone welcomed with open arms in Skyfall and you have the makings of something fun. Unfortunately for this particular film, the fun comes in small doses and usually only when ole Georgie is fucking up some bad guy’s day. Those moments are too far between for this to even be considered a scuffed up gem. For a better look at a few choice instances, look no further than our own fearless leader’s words on this subject from awhile back.
Goddammit, now I want an Archer-esque Clooney spy film. Someone get the Coens’ on the phone…
Is It Worth A Look?: Yes, it is. For all of its faults, it still has its entertaining moments and is held together by good performances. Being one of Clooney’s few “action hero” moments to date is another solid reason to give it a go. Also, for better or worse, it is still more interesting that the majority of the action films that Hollywood churns out today. Should you go out of your way to give it a whirl? No. But if you are at home and in the mood for something of this type, you could do a lot worse than to queue it up on Netflix (or Amazon) Instant.
Random Anecdotes: The first release from the then-newly formed DreamWorks SKG. *golf clap*
Spielberg hired Leder because of her work on E.R.. Yeah, that doesn’t make sense to me either.
Annette Bening was sought for the female lead. Clooney had her name removed from the short list after she beat him in an arm-wrestling match. Okay, that last part isn’t true, but it’s funny to think about.
Shot primarily in Macedonia. Hey, don’t look at me like that, you’re the one who asked!
Cinematic Soulmates: Casino Royale, Detonator, Executive Decision, Maximum Risk, The Siege, The Sum of All Fears, etc.