Saturday 5 January 2019

Movie Review: ffolkes (1980)

A routine action flick, ffolkes (also known as North Sea Hijack and Assault Force) enjoys a stellar cast hampered by a wet noodle of a script.

In England, Rufus Excalibur ffolkes (Roger Moore) runs a private team of counter-terrorism operatives specializing in marine missions. He is asked by insurance giant Lloyd's of London to prepare contingency plans for a possible future threat against offshore oil platforms. Sure enough, a few months later a team of terrorists disguised as reporters gain access to the North Sea supply boat Esther, with Captain Olafsen (Jack Watson) and his crew forced to comply with orders from terrorist leader Lou Kramer (Anthony Perkins) and his goons.

Using Esther's supply mission as cover, Kramer's diving team surreptitiously place explosives first around drilling rig Ruth, then also around the much larger oil production platform Jennifer. Kramer demands a £25 million ransom. The British Prime Minister turns to Admiral Francis Brindsen (James Mason) to lead the counterstrike, and he reluctantly teams up with fflokes to deal with the threat.

After the relative success of The Wild Geese, ffolkes (an old English name spelled with two lower-case f's) followed as another British collaboration between director Andrew V. McLaglen and star Roger Moore, with a dash of American name recognition this time in the form of Anthony Perkins. With Moore just a bit past his prime as James Bond, ffolkes was also an attempt to tweak his image. Here he is an eccentric cat-loving, humourless and bearded misogynist, still equipped with the one-liners but delivered with a stern arrogance rather than a knowing wink.

While no action film is expected to be fully free of plot holes, the Jack Davies script is particularly inept. Some ransom fundamentals are utterly absent: Kramer never gives instructions as to how he wants the money delivered, nor does he reveal how he intends to make his getaway on the open seas. Kramer's background and motivation are similarly vacant. Perkins is left with nothing to do but sit on Esther's bridge with a singular expression (boredom?) hissing the same ultimatums.

Moore and Mason don't fare much better. A long and dull stretch features ffolkes and the hapless Brindsen doing nothing on board Jennifer, ffolkes literally knitting as they wait for the climax to arrive. The premise of the British government turning over the entire operation to a privateer and then allowing ffolkes to issue orders to the Prime Minister strains all credibility. Something about budget cuts is unconvincingly mumbled.

McLaglen does better in a short but moderately effective final assault, not everything going according to plan and ffolkes having to improvise on the fly to rescue the mission. Even then, contrived sloppiness is needed to manufacture cheap thrills.

ffolkes offers a reasonably intriguing premise, but does not capitalize.

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