The Presidio

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Peter Hyams’ film The Presidio (1988) opens with a murder on an army base in San Francisco and then proceeds into a full blown car chase. Hyams directs the chase for optimum mayhem and suspense. The only time that Hyams tops this spectacle is in the chase scene when good guy cop Jay Austin (Mark Harmon) pursues a bad guy on foot through Chinatown. Hyams excels at capturing physical exertion on film, conveying the force of body movement and will power in equal measure. All of The Presidio looks incredible, but nothing in the film matches the quality of these two sequences.

The Presidio is a thriller about a cop and an Army Colonel (Sean Connery) who have to team up to catch a killer only to uncover a diamond smuggling ring that involves the Colonel’s Vietnam War pal (Jack Warden). It’s a paper thin little mystery better suited for a half-hour television show than a prestige motion picture. There are no false leads and absolutely no moral ambiguity. The Presidio simply unfolds at a fast clip, checking all of the genre boxes it can as it speeds along. The Presidio is a paint-by-numbers thriller that wastes its cast and its director.

Connery, Warden, and Meg Ryan all do their best to elevate their one-dimensional characters but none of them can beat the insipid dialogue of the script. Even their dramatic choices as actors seem at odds at times as Harmon focuses on physicality, Connery on the internalization of emotion and Ryan on big, bold externalized expressions of passion. It’s enough to hold the viewer’s attention but not enough to convince the viewer to invest at all in the world of the film.

Sean Connery and Peter Hyams worked together previously on the cult classic Outland (1981) which exemplifies all of the potential that the pair has to offer. Screenwriter Larry Ferguson penned such Connery classics as Highlander (1986) and The Hunt For Red October (1990) so it’s even more mystifying as to where The Presidio went wrong. Perhaps Hyams just wasn’t the right director for a Ferguson script or vice versa. Either way The Presidio remains a missed opportunity of a film.