By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: What’s in account 21214?
Hubbell Smith (Kris Kristofferson) is the newly appointed president of Borough National a bank that is in desperate need of money. He meets Lee Winters (Jane Fonda) the recent widow of the former chairman of Winterchem Enterprises who is looking to obtain a loan in order to purchase a Spanish processing plant. Hubbell broker’s the $500 million deal with some Arab investors and uses the finder’s fee portion to keep his bank solvent, but suspicions are raised when the money goes into a secret account named 21214 that no one knows anything about and can’t access. When Hubbell does some investigating he finds troubling answers that could lead to economic world collapse.
Director Alan J. Pakula approaches this thing like it is another Klute using not only the same star as that one, but similar type of music. Some of the camera work is dazzling and artsy, but I wondered if this was done to help enhance the script, or simply camouflage all of its holes. The story itself is too talky with a heavy reliance of financial business dealings that could become confusing for the average viewer. The two main characters are rather generic and their passionate making-out is tedious instead of sexy. The action is minimal, which includes a scene where Fonda gets trapped in a limo that is driven by a bad guy that had the potential for being exciting, but unfortunately gets underplayed.
Kristofferson with his Texas drawl is an awfully odd casting choice for a hot shot Wall Street businessman. He grows on you as the movie progresses particularly with the way he remains cool and detached even as his business dealings go horribly awry, but I still felt there were a hundred other actors that would have been better suited for the role.
Fonda is excellent and in many ways badly outplays her costar. Her character though doesn’t make a lot of sense as she is supposedly this famous and highly respected actress, much like Fonda herself and yet wants to be chairwoman of this chemical company instead of just selling her share of the stock after the death of husband and go back to acting, which to me would seem a lot more fun.
In an effort to keep the plot moving the film takes a few liberties with the plausibility. One of the major ones is when Hubbell wants to find out about the secret account and does so by breaking into the office of his superior where he finds in his desk drawer a notebook that lists the computer passcode, which seemed too convenient. In reality I would think a programmer would have to be hired in order to hack the system, which would have taken longer to play out, but also if done right heighten the tension as well as the believability.
The film’s biggest transgression is the ending itself, which has the Arabs pulling the money out of the secret fund, which causes mass worldwide economic turmoil and chaos. Not only does this seem to create a whole new movie, but it also minimizes the two main characters and everything that we watched them do for the past two hours. A much better ending would have had the characters come up with some way to avert the collapse instead of the gloomy pessimistic way that it does take, which seems overblown and hard to believe.
End of Spoiler Warning!
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: December 11, 1981
Runtime: 1Hour 56Minutes
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Studio: Warner Brothers
Available: VHS, DVD, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video