Wednesday 2 June 2021

Movie Review: Tigers Don't Cry (1977)

A B-movie thriller, Tigers Don't Cry (also known as Target Of An Assassin) cannot overcome a perforated script and poor production values.

Gumba's President Lunda (Simon Sabela), who is Black and a critic of South Africa's apartheid regime, arrives in Johannesburg for medical treatment. Colonel Albert Pahler (Marius Weyers) is assigned to ensure his security. Hired assassin Shannon (John Phillip Law) takes sniper hots at Lunda's motorcade, but the President makes it to the hospital unscathed. Undeterred, Shannon checks into the hospital as a patient.

Ernest "Sailor" Slade (Anthony Quinn) is an American nurse and part of the hospital's medical team caring for Lunda. Slade himself has a terminal illness he keeps hidden from his 15 year old daughter Ginny (Janet du Plessis). Intent on securing his daughter's financial future, Slade hatches a plan to kidnap the President and hold him for ransom.

A South African production, Tigers Don't Cry is an adaptation of the novel Running Scared by Jon Burmeister. The limited resources are evident in stiff dialogue, poor sound quality, numbingly repetitive music, and most sequences running on for longer than needed to camouflage the lack of content. Director Peter Collinson nevertheless does mount a few impressive action highlights, and invests in a prolonged climax at a cable-car operation, jump stunts and multiple helicopters combining to maintain a basic level of engagement.

Anthony Quinn throws himself into a different kind of role, Simon Sabela contributes sturdy support, and both actors work hard on the unlikely friendship developing between Slade and Lunda. But despite demonstrating some courage to tangentially criticize apartheid, writer Scot Finch succumbs to a fundamentally flawed plot. The idea of an ailing and aging nurse acting on a whim and selecting the most guarded man in the country as his kidnap target never latches.

More troubling and even less rational is Lunda's transformation into a willing hostage to aid Slade's cause, layered on top of a bewildering and unresolved subplot hinting at incestual urges between Slade and Ginny. Meanwhile, the evil forces behind the assassin Shannon are barely defined, leaving second-billed John Philip Law to fire mostly wayward bullets, his projectile count exceeding his words of dialogue.

Tigers Don't Cry, and nurses don't convince as presidential kidnappers.

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