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Timebomb
(1991)
 

Director: Avi Nesher                                 
Cast:
Michael Biehn, Patsy Kensit, Tracey Scoggins


Timebomb spent some time on the distributor's shelf, and didn't spend much time in theaters during its small release. But this Dino De Laurentiis production isn't as bad as you may think. Not that it's without its problems - the movie has a number of unanswered questions and becomes more dubious as it goes along. On the other hand, it's never boring, and it does deliver in the action department. Who knows, you might find it more than an okay way to spend the time during a dull weekend.

Michael Biehn plays Eddie, a quiet and soft-spoken watch repairer who lives in Los Angeles. He lives such a boring life, that the most exciting thing he does is drink a glass of milk while he eats a salad. One night, before he's about to ride his bike back home, a city gas leak ignites and sets a building on fire. Without hesitation or a realization of the risk at hand, Eddie races into the burning building and saves a woman and a baby. His heroic act gets noticed, and later that night the incident is reported on TV. When the news report is on, a man watching elsewhere in the city notices the hero. He recognizes the man - a man who is supposed to be dead.

The mysterious man makes a telephone call. Later that night, while Eddie sleeps in his apartment, a man dressed in black (who is played by Billy Blanks, a B-movie martial arts star of some prominence) breaks in and tries to kill him. Eddie awakens in the nick of time and to his own surprise he manages to fight off this professional killer and drive him away. Despite Eddie's insistence, the police write off the entire incident as a burglary gone wrong. Later, a group of mysterious people attempt a hit and run on Eddie as he rides his bicycle, but Eddie survives the incident. These events then seem to be the trigger for bizarre flashbacks Eddie starts to experience. Remembering that a client of his is a psychiatric doctor, he goes to her and they agree to have him exchange work on her watch in return for her examination of his flashbacks...little realizing what this will lead to, or of the dangers that are still out there for Eddie.

A good beginning, I agree. We have a sympathetic central character, and though this plot is a reworking of the standard amnesia situation, we are still interested because we want to know not only who these mysterious people are, but we want to know why they are interested in Eddie and why they want to kill him. Our sympathy for Eddie, unfortunately, starts to wane shortly after this point in the movie. Without spoiling things, I'll just say that Eddie's character does such a bizarre turn in his personality that he pretty much turns into another character - you'll be mystified why a kind, frightened young man turns into a yelling, gun toting avenger in what seems like a matter of hours. And his behavior towards his doctor is at times so cruel, viewers may develop an extreme dislike to him. Nor is his rational for getting his doctor to stick with him all throughout the rest of the movie. I couldn't help but think of a movie I saw several years ago called Suspect Device, with C. Thomas Howell, which had a central plot quite similar to this. The difference there was that Howell's character stayed pretty much at a constant despite the revelations he learned. Also, his actions were those of a clearly desperate man who had no other choice, not like Eddie who seems sometimes to be mean for the sake of being mean.

The plot of the movie also becomes more improbable as the movie runs, which lead me to ask myself a lot of questions, including: (1) Why spend the time and money to film a few minutes in the middle of the movie in Mexico if it doesn't add anything to the story, (2) Would the military really abandon a large military laboratory and its multi-million dollar equipment and have it guarded by only one guard, (3) Why would the electricity still be running in this abandoned complex, (4) Would this machinery really work perfectly after more than twenty years, and (5) Would you, encountering such mammoth equipment, immediately start punching buttons at random? Characters are also ill-defined and handled poorly; a wounded female villain's fate is never resolved after she's left in a hotel room, and a separate group of characters lead by Robert Culp disappear before the end, with no mention of their fate or what they really wanted of Eddie.

Avi Nesher strikes me as a director who is only as good as his script, and of how much visual "pow" he can put in his movie. Take his later movie The Mercenary, which was a good action movie but was definitely stronger on the action and visuals than the story. As in that movie, the action scenes here are above average. The hand-to-hand fight in the apartment, and shoot-outs in a psychiatric ward and a porn theater are crisply directed and edited to maximum impact. Nesher also shows his visual flair elsewhere in the movie, most prominently in the flashback sequences where he uses simple but effective tricks like shooting in all-white rooms with actors wearing white clothing. Actually, this may have been more for budgetary reasons (it's apparent on several occasions that Nesher was not working with a completely adequate budget), but it does manage to still be interesting to look at. No doubt some viewers will find most interesting to look at are the strong sexual elements occasionally flashed on the screen, though I found this stuff to alternately be either steamy or laughable and out of place. The movie itself is neither especially good or terrible, though it will certainly keep your interest.

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See also: The Mercenary, Sabotage, The Ambassador

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