Busting 1974 ****


Peter Hyams is a director with quite a body of big-budget studio work behind him, from Capricorn One to Outland; a hit tv movie sent him on a six month research spree at the LAPD and led to his writing and directing this early work, a strikingly small-scale and down-at-heel view of police-work. Elliott Gould, sporting a handlebar moustache, and Robert Blake are the cops who shake-down various low-lives on their way to confrontation with gangster Rizzi (Allen Garfield). An early scene in which the cops enjoy the beating up of men in a gay bar sets the unpleasant tone, but that scabrous honesty is what Busting is about; post MASH and throughout the 70’s, there was a general enthusiasm for depicting the moral confusion and general squalor of life, and the nihilistic workings of the police force made an ideal cross-section in films like Fuzz or The Choirboys. Hyams supercharges his story with a couple of stunning foot-chases, one leading into a brutal market gunfight, and the leads are just right for the abrasive feel. Busting was the kind of US import the BBC used to cheerfully show on a Sunday evening; in portraying life as a steaming cess-pit of prostitution, homophobia and general degradation, Busting lays the old, familiar story out before television and Starsky and Hutch in particular, could sanitize it for resale.



Outland 1981 ***


Derided somewhat on release as a blatant reworking of classic Western High Noon, Peter Hyams’ 1981 film is set in the same kind of dirty, industrial space as Alien, and features Sean Connery as police marshal O’Niel who has to keep the peace on the remote mining colony of Io. O’Niel discovers that the company are using drugs to heighten productiveness, but also damaging the workforce; the company boss Mark Sheppard (Peter Boyle) arranges for O’Niel to be bumped off, and the countdown begins to a stand-off between the forces of good and corporate evil. Outland looks good, as most of Hyams’ films do, and has a happy centre in Connery; it may lack originality, but Outland is a fondly remembered excursion into the dirty deals of humankind in outer-space.

Hanover Street 1979 ***


Harrison Ford was an unlikely star; watching his interviews at the time of Star Wars, he doesn’t look entirely convinced that this acting lark is for him. Working with writer/director Peter Hyams, Ford is beginning to develop his charisma in WWII drama Hanover Street, and unashamedly slushy romantic melodrama in which Ford was a late replacement for Kris Kristofferson. Ford plays David, and American pilot who falls in love with Margaret (Lesley-Anne Down), with he husband Paul (Christopher Plummer) not up to the job. David gets sent on a dangerous mission, and Hanover Street jumps abruptly from domestic passion to an impressive motorcycle action climax that fits somewhat uneasily. But Hanover Street is a splendidly old-fashioned film, a guilty pleasure for nostalgia fans and soppy romancers alike.

Sudden Death 1995 ***


Arguably the best of the slew of Die Hard copycat movies that followed the original John McTiernan film, Sudden Death sees action director Peter Hyams revitalise the trapped-hero conventions with muscular direction and some tounge-in-cheek humour. Jean Claude Van Damme is fire-fighter Darren McCord, who uses his time off to take his kids to an ice-hockey game. But with terrorists planning to detonate the stadium at the end of the match, McCord swings into action, getting on the ice to save a penalty and force extra-time, beating up a giant penguin mascot, and defeating the nefarious plans of Joshua Foss (Powers Boothe). Originally intended as an Airplane! –style parody, Sudden Death plays it enjoyably straight and transcends the over-subscribed genre with ease.

Running Scared 1986 ***


The always proficient Peter Hyams directs this cheerfully straight-forward buddy cop movie from 1986, featuring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines as Chicago cops Danny and Ray. Originally written for Paul Newman and Gene Hackman as a duo about to retire, Hyams ages the characters down and came up with a freewheeling comedy more in the spirit of Beverley Hills cop, with plenty of funny lines in Jimmy Huston and Gary De Vore’s script. Everything from Dan Hedeya’s gruff Captain to the drug-dealer pursued are familiar territory, but Hines and Crystal are clearly enjoying their chemistry, and some good location work in a wintry Chicago completes an more-than-acceptable package.

Capricorn One 1978 ****

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Peter Hyams always brought a professional sheen to his movies, and his 1978 ‘faked landing on Mars’ conspiracy thriller looks great. Elliot Gould is the detective who discovers that the US landing on Mars has been faked, and that the astronauts, including James Brolin and OJ Simpson, have a limited shelf-life once that rocket explodes. Capricorn One ends with a bi-plane and helicopter stuntfest with Telly Savalas that doesn’t feel like quite the right resolution for the story, but there’s plenty to enjoy along the way, particularly the runaway car scene.