Archives for posts with tag: Robert De Niro

White people. They screw up everything. That’s pretty much the theme of “The Mission” (1986), except the white people are actually conniving Spanish and Portuguese colonialists and some other white people (Jesuit priests Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson) are trying to peacefully bring Jesus to the same indigenous South Americans. Then there’s Robert De Niro, who alternates between slave trader and Jesuit, always on the wrong side at the wrong time. Trust me, it’s not as confusing as it seems. Lush scenery, simple but effective storytelling and a healthy dose of Catholic guilt, if you’re into that sort of thing.

At the end of “Ronin” (1998), spy/hitman/something-or-other Jean Reno becomes narrator and utters, “no questions and no answers.” Well, I have questions and would like some answers. If anyone other than John Frankenheimer had directed, could a post-Cold War espionage flick starring Robert De Niro have possibly been as pointless and opaque? And what is Frankenheimer’s obsession with assassination attempts at big events? And how do you have a seemingly endless car chase through Paris and encounter only one cop? There’s willing suspension of disbelief and then there’s willful ignorance of reality. Is that what was in the secret case?

Ron Howard makes art for the common man, so his films like “Backdraft” don’t get a lot of credit. In that one, there’s an awkward subplot involving a behind-bars arsonist played by Donald Sutherland. The scenes, which ape “Silence of the Lambs,” seem to exist mainly to give Robert De Niro more screen time. Yet, 28 years later, producer Howard signed off on a stripped-down, straight-to-video sequel that reshapes this subplot into a standalone procedural. And it’s actually a pretty decent, 101-minute TV show. “Backdraft 2” (2019) stars Joe Anderson (who?) plus Sutherland and another key 1991 player, William Baldwin.