Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Outland (1981)

Writer and Director: Peter Hyams

Runtime: 112 minutes.

I do not have anything witty or even slightly interesting to start this review so I am just start.

The movie opens with a shot of the moon Io and an info dump that explains that Io is the home to  Con Amalgamate mining town. It fails to explain why the movie's version of Io is not the volcanic mess that the moon is in real life but you can't win them all. The scene shifts to a trio of miners working and complaining about the random acts of management. One of the miners starts screaming about spiders in his suit and discovers that the atmosphere Io causes the human body to explode.

Elsewhere on the station, the new Marshall William T. O'Niel (played by Sean (one of the better James Bond) Connery) is getting ready for his first day on the job. Mostly by talking about what happen on the last shift with his deputy Sgt. Montone and meeting with the administration staff. Back at the mine, another miner decides that today is a good day to go for a walk outside without a spacesuit. Again this insanity ends in impressive and gory practical effect.

O'Niel returns home to find his wife and kid have left the mining town and are waiting on the supply station for the next ship back to Earth. Rather than dwelling on this O'Niel starts looking deeper into these mysterious suicides and accidents. He visits Dr Lazarus, the town doctor and a resident smart ass. She eventually agrees to look into the incidents.

O`Niel goes back to his quarters to brood over the fact his wife left but is interrupted by problem in the redlight district of the town. A crane operator lost his mind and has taken a sex worker hostage. O'Niel distracts the crane operator while Sgt. Montone goes through the air vent to sneak up behind the guy. Unfortunately Sgt. Montone just shoots the crane operator because he was holding a knife.

This is all getting a little too weird for O'Niel, so takes a blood sample from the dead crane operator and visits Dr. Lazarus. She confirms that the crane operator had synthetic amphetamines in his system and was the reason for his death. Armed with this O'Niel looks at who in the mining town has been arrested for previous drug experience. O'Niel has plot convenience smile on him in the fact that two people fit the bill and lead him to proof that the general manager is behind the drug smuggling.

So O'Niel tries to arrest on of the people responsible for distributing drugs to the miners. This leads to an epic chase through the miner barracks and a cafeteria. He arrests the drug dealer and then he goes to see the general manger. The general manager is not really concerned about the arrest and wants to know how much O'Niel will take as a bribe. O'Niel won't take the bribe and the general manger strongly suggests he takes it.

O'Niel goes to check in on his drug dealing prisoner only to discover someone killed him. He goes to see Montone about what is happening and discovers that someone also killed Montone. But before he died Montone left a message that the drugs are being brought in the weekly food shipments from the supply station. Our man O'Niel goes down to the docks and he starts looking for the drugs and is attacked by the remaining drug dealer with a garrote. However O'Niel came prepared for this and just played dead so the last drug dealer would find the drugs for him.

After the drugs are found O'Niel beats up the drug dealer, destroys the drugs and tell the general manager that he destroyed the drugs. The general manager in turn gets a couple of hired guns to come to the mining town to kill O'Niel. O'Niel is one step ahead of the general manager and learns about this from intercepting the general manager's video calls.  At this point in the movie the large clocks that are all over the mining town become important as they show the time remaining until the next shuttle from the supply station is due to arrive. This also is great at adding tension to the movie, kind of like the clock approaching high noon does in westerns.

O'Niel prepares a few traps for the hired killer and goes around the town looking for people to help him. The trap preparation goes well but the residents of the mining town are less than interested in fighting hired killers. The killers arrive early and the next seven minutes is cat and mouse hunt where the hostile environment and practical effects are used to great effect. Also a bonus traitor on O'Niel's staff shows up and is killed for his trouble. With the killers and traitor dead, O'Niel confronts the general manger and punches him out. Proving to himself and the mining town he is more than a glorified mall cop he heads to the supply station for a trip back to Earth with his family.

MVT: This is an impressive western. Yes it is set in the future and in space but it is still a western. It captures what it is like to be in the middle of nowhere with a corrupting influence.

Make or Break: Make for me is Sean Connery and the gritty feel of the mining town. I  am a bit of Sean Connery fan and you can see how Alien had an influence on the set design. It looks lived in, dark and unearth like as possible. The Break for me was how it ended. O'Niel gets back with his wife and kid, everyone is ok with him destroying several parts mining town and none of the people O'Niel have to answer to have an issue with him punching out a general manager instead of arresting him.

Score: 7.8 out of 10

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