Chain Of Command

Director: John Terlesky                           
Roy Scheider, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Biehn

I have a lot of sympathy for movie actors in their golden years, especially those actors who have entered that age category in the last twenty years or so. Though the motion picture industry has always been His acting future is so bright, he's got to wear shadessomewhat biased towards youth, it's become even more so in the past two decades. This brings a double-whammy to those aged actors, because not only is there less chance of them getting work, there's even less chance that they'll be given a quality role. One such older actor who gets very little chance to do "A" material nowadays is Roy Scheider (Jaws, Sorcerer, All That Jazz). It must be pointed out that he does seem to get significantly work more than the average actor his age, and I have enjoyed the previous B movies I've seen with him in them (the last one being The Doorway.) 

All the same, Scheider's choices of roles seems to be coming more predictable despite all the opportunities he seems to be getting. This can be see in the movie being reviewed here, Chain Of Command. In this movie, Scheider plays the President of the United States. That may not sound unusual at first, until you know that this is the third time (previously, The Peacekeeper and Executive Target) Schieder has played the President in less than five years! Three times! Even Rod Steiger has refrained from playing Benito Mussolini more than twice. What makes it even worse is that the central plot of Chain Of Command is exactly the same as The Peacekeeper! There is no way that Scheider couldn't have seen that, so why do the same old thing again?

There are a few possible answers, the most obvious one being that playing such a prominent and powerful figure may be hard to resist. Also, there is evidence to suggest that Schieder was given the opportunity to do things that a U.S. President doesn't usually do in a movie. In Executive Target, his president character got to blurt out at one point, "You bet I'm pissed off!" You've got to admit that you don't often hear Presidents cursing in movies. Seen even less times in movies are Presidents having hot sex in country club bathrooms. Yes, in one scene in Chain Of Command, Scheider's President character and a young female tennis pro (who happens to be the wife of one of his best friends) sneak off into the bathroom at the country club and have hot sex. I'm sure everyone reading this review has been impatiently waiting all of these years to see Roy Scheider having hot sex, so to tide you over until you rent Chain Of Command to see it for yourself, here is a still (in widescreen, no less) of Roy Scheider in the middle of his hot sex:


In case that's not enough, here's a bonus for you. Here's Roy Scheider in the middle of some ass-grabbing while on Air Force One. You must admit that's it's rare for a President to engage in some ass-grabbing (at least, those Presidents found in the movies):

"Give me some booty, baby!"

I'm sure you've noticed that in those two stills, you don't actually see Scheider's face. No, I didn't select the stills carefully when I was taking pictures of both scenes - the direction in both scenes has Scheider's face hidden from the audience. Though had Scheider's face actually been exposed in any of those two scenes, I would have protected my readers from going into shock by taking more or less the same kind of screenshots seen above. It's also probably the same reason as to why John Terlesky, the director of Chain Of Command, never showed Scheider's face as well. And that is the only positive attribute I can find in Terlesky's entire direction of this movie. This is quite simply one of the worst "action" movies in recent years, constantly alternating from the worst negative attributes that can be found in the craft of movie making. It goes from one negative extreme to the other - it's boring, illogical, plagiaristic, shoddy, and cynical to boot. What's really sad is that there is no visible sign that anyone in front of or behind the camera was at least trying to squeeze out a little entertainment from this cheapie. (Sadder still is listening to the director's commentary on the DVD, where it's clear that he thinks he made a pretty good movie, and there only being a few little boo-boos here and there.)

I know I said earlier in this review that the central plot of the movie is ripped off from The Peacekeeper, but let me describe how it's executed here so that I can show just how incompetence this movie is. The hero of this movie is Mike Connelly (Muldoon), a Secret Service agent assigned to protect President Jack Cahill (Scheider), though he's become disillusioned by his job, since seeing the President having hot sex in country club bathrooms and grabbing women's assess can do that to you. Anyway, he finally has had enough during one flight of Air Force One (which, due to some poorly selected stock footage of a commercial airliner, looks nothing like the real Air Force One.) What happens is that one of the members of the press aboard the flight is a phoney, actually an assassin who want to kill the president. Who is this guy, how the hell did he manage to fake his credentials and slip past the security of the Secret Service, and why does he want to kill the president? The movie doesn't even try giving us any token answers; I guess it was felt necessary to show that our hero is a hero by killing the assassin, since Scheider gets the top billing in this movie, and not Muldoon. Actually, had Scheider been the hero of this movie, the results may have been a little more interesting. But I digress.

Moving right along...Mike is ready to quit, but since he has to eat, he instead transfers to the Service's "football" division; guarding the silver briefcase always kept in close vicinity to the President, inside of which is a computer that can control and launch the country's nuclear arsenal. Now it's on to Mike's next adventure, which is - hey, wait a minute! Maybe aside from showing that our hero is a hero, it now means the past twenty minutes or so were for nothing. Well, yeah, we finally got to see the 68 year-old Scheider having hot sex, but I mean regarding the main plot. There is essentially nothing in those previous twenty minutes that has any influence as to what is to come. Logic would dictate that those first twenty minutes of the script would be chucked out, and maybe spend the money originally budgeted for that portion on improving the main story. But we're not dealing with logic in this movie, as the next paragraph will further illustrate.

Anyway, not long after Mike joins the football team, a crisis starts brewing. Seems that China is once again making a fuss over Taiwan. Now in real life, all the President would have do whenever this or another crisis with China pops up would be simply to renew favored-nation status with "I'm off to save the world - as soon as I open my eyes"China for another year - that always quiets things down for several months. Though I admit that doing it here would end the movie abruptly, so President Cahill decides instead to have talks. Though not with any members of the Chinese government - instead, he decides to have talks with Fung (Ric Young), a rich Taiwanese industrialist who is "a former student" of Cahill's. Huh? What was Cahill before he was president? What did he teach Fung? Why does he decide to meet Fung in the middle of the ocean on Fun's luxury liner Su-Maru, which doesn't lend itself to be given surrounding defense, as well as it being difficult to bring in help should it be needed? Most importantly, how on earth can someone like Fung diffuse the tension coming from China? Actually, there is an explanation given to that last question.... eventually. By the time it comes, the viewer will have been frustrated for so long, they simply won't care. Anyway, you've probably guessed that Die Hard will be ripped off now, with terrorists having plans to snatch the briefcase and force the President to use it. You're right. They manage to do this by forcing one of the other football carriers to help them after they kidnap and hold his family hostage. (Incidentally, this kidnapped family subplot never gets resolved.)

So the ship is covered with terrorists, and - you've guessed it - Mike Connelly is the only one who can stop them, having been momentarily away from everyone else when the terrorists struck. (Just like John McClane in Die Hard.) Don't expect the action to be as fast and as furious as in Die Hard, though. Though Scheider and Young manage to make some kind of presence on the screen (though the former by constantly acting embarrassed, and the latter by teeth-gritting and absolutely goofy whiny hissing fits) Muldoon has absolutely no screen presence. I'm serious. Muldoon barely speaks, and when he does he's almost inaudible. Also, he frequently keeps his gaze down, as if he's trying to figure out once and for all if he tied his shoes or not. Several times in the movie when there is no action at all and he's standing still, he seems to simply blend into the background and become a part of it. And when his character finally gets into action, he mostly engages in very routine and generic shooting. For the life of me, I can't think of one moment where Muldoon's character acts especially heroic or gutsy. He points and clicks with his gun with the intensity of taking a photograph while on vacation.

Muldoon isn't the main source of blame for the utter boredom this movie generates. That dubious distinction goes to director Terlesky, who can't raise any kind of passion in the movie. (Except for when Schieder has hot sex.) The whole enterprise has a really dismal look to it, frequently lacking a substantial amount of lighting. A lot of this is obviously done to hide the cheap nature of the sets, but even when the sets are more realistic (or shooting on location), Terelsky manages to screw things up with his cramped directorial style, so that not one location is convincing. The amount of cost-cutting done here at times brings such ludicrous results, that it's hard to take the entire film seriously. I mean, there are such goofs as a grenade that not only explodes with sparks(!), but manages to fell a foe without damaging the walls and ceiling of the cramped location. But Terleski can't even use stock footage correctly. When the Su-Maru explodes late in the movie (though not late enough - there's more boring action to come) courtesy of footage taken from Deep Rising, this is what we see in one shot:

Even worse is that this f/x footage wasn't all that impressive in "Deep Rising"

Among the many answers the movie fails to give us is how the Su-Maru got a last-minute name change.

To top things off, later in the screenplay some very dire events happen (which I will not reveal) that really put a bitter taste to the proceedings. I'm not immediately against a movie having some cynicism or some really downer things happen in it, but the movie better be constructed well enough to handle it. Chain Of Command is so badly made, that those aforementioned events just add to the downer feeling viewers will experience during the movie and afterwards. The whole movie is so pathetic, such a sad excuse for some dumb action (and not the fun kind), that its "who cares?" attitude will soon be on the lips of viewers. With the momentary exception of Scheider's ass-grabbing. And that hot sex, of course. 

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Act Of War, Lethal Tender, The Peacekeeper