Robert Redford is in some great espionage flicks, including “Three Days of the Condor” with Faye Dunaway (click here for my review) and “Spy Game” with Brad Pitt. Another good one is from 1992 called “Sneakers,” which has a much more interesting supporting cast than the other two but just as complex a story. “Sneakers” is a bit more lighthearted than “Three Days of the Condor” and “Spy Game” and much more fun. Enjoy.
(1992; 126 minutes; rated PG-13; directed by Phil Alden Robinson and starring Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier and Dan Aykroyd)
JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW …
(NOTE: I updated this review with new links on July 19, 2015.)
Robert Redford has impeccable credentials on screen from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” to “The Sting” to “The Electric Horseman” (click here for my review) and more. As an actor he is thorough, professional and has that persona that would make him both the intellect and the life of any party.
Redford and his castmates never disappoint here, as they are all on their A-game throughout “Sneakers.”
In “Sneakers,” Redford leads a ragtag bunch of “security” experts from a former CIA agent (Sidney Poitier) to a conspiracy obsessed wacko (Dan Aykroyd) to a blind computer genius (David Strathairn) to a young computer nerd (River Phoenix in one of his last roles before his death in 1993). They scratch out a living testing security systems (what they call “sneaks”) and get hauled into a complex plot involving a plot to steal an encryption machine.
But not all is what is appears for just about everyone.
Redford plays “Martin Bishop,” who as a college student (real name “Martin Brice”) along with a friend used computers to break into sensitive networks and had to go underground to escape prosecution. His friend wasn’t so lucky (more about this later in a SPOILER ALERT). Fast forward and Redford has now gone semi-respectable but someone knows his secret and uses it to hire the gang.
I can only describe briefly that the film has twists and turns from its plot to low-key action and winds its way around to a satisfactory ending with a nice small turn by James Earl Jones, who is familiar not only by his distinctive voice but from films such as “The Hunt for Red October” (click here for my review), “Conan the Barbarian,” “The Lion King” and “Star Wars.” It’s not my intent to give the synopses of the plot, but let’s just say it’s intelligent and you’ll find it entertaining.
I’ve already touched on Redford’s abilities and how he doesn’t disappoint, but you’ll appreciate all the emotions he brings to the table here.
As to the key members of the supporting cast:
- Aykroyd plays “Darren ‘Mother’ Roskow,” a burglar who loves to tease Poitier about supposed government conspiracies. Aykroyd does an outstanding job here. He’s disheveled and irritating and does more with this role than in bigger ones such as “Doctor Detroit” or “Dragnet,” but it’s not up to his Oscar-nominated role in “Driving Miss Daisy” or classics such as “Trading Places” (click here for my review), “Ghostbusters” or even smaller films such as “Grosse Point Blank” (click here for my review) and we’ll continue to forget “Exit to Eden.”
- Poitier plays “Donald Crease,” the former CIA man who won’t say why he was fired. Poitier is the even-handed voice of reason in a group of misfits and is the foundation of their strength. Poitier has been in critically acclaimed films such as “In the Heat of the Night,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “The Bedford Incident” (click here to read my review) as well as his first film with Phoenix in “Little Nikita” four years earlier.
- Strathairn and Phoenix are good, but not so much as Aykroyd and Poitier. Strathairn, who was in “L.A. Confidential” (click here for my review) and TV’s “The Sopranos,” is solid as the blind phone hacker “Irwin ‘Whistler’ Emory.” Phoenix, who was also in “Stand By Me” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” is energetic as the young computer hacker “Carl Arbogast” but doesn’t get a chance to display his full talent.
- Mary McDonnell plays “Liz,” Redford’s love interest here. McDonnell is the adult of the group and tries to deflect Redford’s attempts to rekindle an obvious romance. McDonnell, who was in “Independence Day,” “Dances With Wolves” and “Blue Chips” (click here for my review), blends just the right amount of off-handedness and aloofness here.
The best two supporting actors are Timothy Busfield and Eddie Jones. The pair play “Dick Gordon” and “Buddy Wallace” respectively and play the good-cop, bad-cop routine to perfection (or are they cops? Agents? What?). Busfield, who was in TV’s “Thirtysomething” as well as “Revenge of the Nerds” (click here for my review) and “Little Big League,” is the affable, con man of the duo. He’s breezy and light and just a bit sinister. In the meantime, Jones, who was in “The Rocketeer,” “The Terminal” and a string of TV episodes, is just plain menacing as the enforcing arm of the duo. Notable jobs by both.
Here comes the SPOILER ALERT!
Actually, the best supporting performance here is by Ben Kingsley, who plays the grown-up version of Redford’s college roommate “Cosmo.” Kingsley didn’t die in prison and now is the criminal mastermind behind organized crime. He’s actually the one behind Busfield and Jones and he’s the one who wants the machine so he can expand his nefarious empire.
Kingsley plays his part to perfection with just the right touch of psychosis and intelligence. Of course he did much better in “Gandhi” (remember, he won the Oscar for Best Actor for this one) and “Schindler’s List.”
SPOILER ALERT over!
All in all, you should really enjoy every minute of “Sneakers,” especially the end where the characters get to pick a prize for themselves (no, I’m not kidding).
“Sneakers” did a respectable $51.2 million at the U.S. box office, according to Box Office Mojo. That was good enough for 30th ranked film in 1992 on a budget of $35 million (it took in $105 million total including internationally). It was just a head of “The Mighty Ducks” and “Malcolm X” and far behind the No. 1 film of the year: “Aladdin” at $217.3 million.
Other cast notes (via IMDb.com):
- Bohdi Elfman, husband of Jenna Elfman of TV’s “Dharma & Greg,” has a small role as a bank guard. He has also been in “Collateral” and “Enemy of the State.”
- Amy Benedict, who plays NSA agent “Mary” who is the immediate love interest of Phoenix, was in “Acts of Mercy” and a string of TV roles back to 1963 with the soap opera “General Hospital.”
- When Redford’s and Kingsley’s characters, played by younger actors, are shown at the beginning of the film, the building they are in is the façade of the Old Clock Tower from “Back to the Future.”
- IMDb.com does a major screw-up in a trivia “fact” in its entry for “Sneakers.” It has a piece of trivia saying that “Martin” and “Bishop” (Redford’s name here) were the last two names in a list of victims in “Three Days of the Condor.” Nope. The last two names there were “Bishop” and “Mitchell.”
- Donal Logue, who was in “Blade,” “The Patriot” and “The Tao of Steve,” plays “Dr. Gunter Janek,” the long-haired mathematician at the center of the plot.
© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2014-2015.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material
without express and written permission from this blog’s author
and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links
may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given
to Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples with appropriate
and specific direction to the original content.