The real star of The Package (1989) is the original story, written by John Bishop.
This political thriller is an even better-mounted Andrew Davis production than Under Siege (1992) which came soon after. It stars Gene Hackman as John Gallagher, the putated hero, and he does have a few good lines, eg when his team puzzles over why a lone man in uniform paces in the cold: "That's a general, guys. Generals do a lot of thinking. Whenever I'm asked to be one, I always say No", he jokes with his men.
Tommy Lee's character's identity as possibly a Thomas Boyette is crucial to the plot, so I don't want to blow the suspense. But suffice to say that the "package" is actually the person of TLJ, whom Johnny Gallagher has to escort off the Glienicker Bridge out of East Berlin, and then back onto USA soil, supposedly as punishment for Gallagher having lost a firefight with terrorists who kill the same general he and his team observed pacing earlier.
This is a clever rework of the wilderness of mirrors of the Kennedy assassination. The movie centers around a plot at the highest levels of both the US and Soviet armies. A small cabal of Cold Warrior hawks conspires to destabilize and possibly destroy the peace process of détente, which was well on its way to success.
They don't agree with "the removal of the nuclear shield", ie of the constant threat of (M)utually (A)ssured (D)estruction. (It was the policy until the very détente came to pass which this movie examines. Yes, its acronym really is MAD. You can bet a lot of mileage was made of that for decades.) But just what is the cabal actually planning? Who ordered the hit on that general, and why?
A number of the characters reveal their alternate identities from time to time. TLJ in particular is a chameleon, but I think he is best when he pretends to be (possibly) Secret Service. He wears Macintoshes really well. Some of his costumes don't always suit him, but he's fairly believable as a priest performing a live drop at a bus depot. (When two people surreptitiously try to pick up each other's goods in public, that's called a "live drop". They're usually done at depots. A "dead drop" is when one person deposits something in a hidden place and then marks an agreed-upon signal to indicate there is something to be picked up for whoever comes along much later.)
Like I said, the plot showcases and moves the story along very nicely. The only two things that fail in the movie (for me, rather grossly) are the incessant but transparent attempts by some unseen hand repeatedly yanking Gallagher's chain, and the fact that he keeps extricating himself and getting away. Others keep dropping dead all around Gallagher, but he's always fine. It gets really, really frustrating, because all the dead victims were soft targets who knew almost nothing but were terminated with prejudice, while Gallagher, who is in a position to figure out everything, they don't even attempt to kill until the last part of the movie. It's Gallagher that's the Teflon Kid, not ex-President Bill Clinton!
The most chilling line (this is a thriller, after all) is delivered by Karl Richards "from Intelligence" (Ron Dean), Henke's rather unassuming, avuncular handler. When the pointedly naive Henke observes that "This setup is perfect. Really", meaning his own brand new office, Karl agrees that "Yeah. It is", and we get chills of realization that there is much more going on than Henke is aware of. Here's my spoiler (apologies): Henke's the patsy. He's the patsy in exactly the same way that we're supposed to be reminded Oswald was. Henke is even "sheep-dipped" (tarred with a false reputation exactly opposite to what he was being used as) the same way as Oswald was, handing out anti-Communist leaflets on the street, exactly the same as Oswald. The analogy is unmistakable.
Dennis Franz repeats his stereotype role as police detective Milan (Gallagher's ex-wife, the formidable Eileen Gallagher (Joanna Cassidy) pronounces it incorrectly as "Mylon") Delich, the gruff detective who is nevertheless deep. Franz is, as always, very credible, with great cop's reflexes, and he even has a very brave scene where he stands his ground in a shootout, despite being already wounded. Franz began doing Buntz during his years on Hill Street Blues, which I can recall, and for me it's always nice to see "Buntz" again. Franz has spoken of his apparent typecasting, but he for one actually enjoys it. It's a character he enjoys exploring indefinitely, he says.
As for our satisfaction at the ending - it's pretty satisfying, but sad. Glen Whitacre (John Heard) is chillingly premature when he spits at Gallagher that "you're a dead man". He constantly underestimates everybody, including his own situation, so I guess he's probably the dumbest of the co-conspirators. He gets a run for his money, though, from the salt-and-pepper team of dumb rough guys for the cabal, who look like Frick and Frack. They keep turning up everywhere in different guises. They even turn up as a couple of good guys in other Andrew Davis movies, who has obviously cottoned onto the notion of using the same stable of actors in his movies wherever possible.
All in all, a very well developed story, if perhaps a little overdeveloped in order to keep Gallagher alive and well enough to do damage. 9/10.
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