Film Review – NARROW MARGIN (1990)

NARROW MARGIN (1990, USA, 97m, 15) ***
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. TriStar Pictures (USA), Guild Film Distribution (UK); pr co. Carolco Pictures; d. Peter Hyams; w. Peter Hyams (based on the screenplay by Earl Felton and the story by Martin Goldsmith & Jack Leonard); pr. Jonathan A. Zimbert; ph. Peter Hyams (Technicolor | 2.39:1, 2.20:1 (70mm prints)); m. Bruce Broughton; ed. James Mitchell; pd. Joel Schiller; ad. David Willson.
cast: Gene Hackman (Robert Caulfield), Anne Archer (Hunnicut), James Sikking (Nelson), Harris Yulin (Leo Watts), J.T. Walsh (Michael Tarlow), M. Emmet Walsh (Sgt. Dominick Benti), Susan Hogan (Kathryn Weller), Nigel Bennett (Jack Wootton), J.A. Preston (Martin Larner), B.A. ‘Smitty’ Smith (Keller), Codie Lucas Wilbee (Nicholas), Barbara Russell (Nicholas’ Mother), Antony Holland (Elderly Man), Doreen Ramos (Elderly Woman), Kevin McNulty (James Dahlbeck), Andrew Rhodes (Nigro), Lon Katzman (Loughlin), Dana Still (Bellman With Message), Lesley Ewen (Larner’s Secretary), Barney O’Sullivan (Ticket Agent).
This remake of Richard Fleischer’s well-regarded 1952 film noir sees Archer witness a brutal murder by mobsters. She hides out in a remote cabin in the Canadian tundra. Hackman is the Deputy DA who journeys into the wilderness to convince Archer to testify in court. When mob assassins shoot at the cabin in a helicopter, Hackman and Archer make a mad dash through the wilderness to escape the mob only to be trapped on a train with the villains on their tail. It lacks the dark intensity of the original but benefits from Hackman’s witty performance. The script is generally weak and lacks plausibility, but there are occasional flourishes of humour – notably in the exchanges between Hackman and Sikking. Great stunt work is in evidence too as the story is punctuated with violent action sequences. Archer, however, is given little to do other than look scared and Hyams seems undecided on tone throughout. The Canadian scenery is breathtaking and wonderfully captured by Hyams. Broughton provides a suitably brooding score. The result is a flawed but often highly entertaining thriller worth it for Hackman alone.