July 7, 2023

The Other McBAIN

McBAIN (Blu-ray)
1991 / 104 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

I’m gonna do everyone a solid and refrain from making any Simpsons jokes, which I’m sure plenty of other writers have already done while reviewing McBain.

But if you’ll indulge me, I do have one nagging question. Since The Simpsons’ McBain character did come first, why was writer-director James Glickenhaus so hell-bent on keeping the name and title? Wouldn’t it have been easier to simply retitle the damn thing to avoid any humorous connections?

Or maybe he was silently counting on a bit of name recognition to call some attention to his own movie, since it's the same type of ‘80s-style kaboom-fest that The Simpsons’ McBain parodied (though Christopher Walken would never be mistaken for Rainier Wolfcastle). If that’s the case, mission failed, because Glickenhaus’ McBain vanished into obscurity faster than Poochie (I guess that counts as a Simpsons joke, doesn’t it? Sorry).

To be honest, I’d never heard of this one until prompted to review it, even with its fairly impressive cast. Walken plays the title character, a Vietnam veteran indebted to war buddy Santos for saving his life. Years later, Santos is killed trying to lead a rebellion against the corrupt, tyrannical president of Colombia (Victor Argo). That’s when his sister, Christina (Maria Conchita Alonso) looks up McBain and calls in that favor…to kill the president and end his reign of terror.

"Lay off, will ya? It's my lucky hat."
Naturally, McBain has to assemble his team, which involves getting the old gang back together and acquiring an arsenal of weapons before heading south. Meanwhile, the U.S. president watches in horror as Colombia warns that any American support of the rebels will be an act of war (however, these scenes have absolutely no bearing on the plot). The second half of the film consists of McBain and his buddies teaming up with rebels (led by Alonso) to save villagers, kill bad guys and blow a lot of shit up.

Though fated to share video shelf space with Michael Dudikoff cheapies, McBain deserves a second look. For one thing, the film had a fairly large budget and much of it is right up there on the screen, with plenty of exciting gunplay, violence and fiery destruction to compensate for an overall lack of plausibility. 

But for a movie called McBain, its main character doesn’t actually do a lot of McBaining. Most of the mayhem is inflicted by the ensemble cast, including Alonso, Thomas G. Waites, Steve James and the great Michael Ironside (who belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of B-movie badasses). On the other hand, if we’re talking quality over quantity, McBain does deliver the film’s most satisfying kill and Walken is serviceable in an atypical role (he’s never really been thought of as an action hero). 

Typical of most James Glickenhaus movies (such as The Exterminator and Shakedown), there ain’t much in McBain we haven't seen in other action flicks both big and small. But while never particularly memorable, it’s certainly entertaining in the moment and delivers decent boom for your buck. Rescued from obscurity by Synapse Films, this disc is light on bonus material but features a really good Blu-ray transfer.


AUDIO COMMENTARY - By writer-director James Glickenhaus and film historian Chris Poggiali.


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