ffolkes (1980)

ffolks2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Loves cats, hates women.

Rufus Excalibur ffolkes (Roger Moore) is a cat loving misogynist who dislikes women because he grew up the youngest of five sisters and forced to wear their hand-me-downs until he was age 10. As an adult he is a counter-terrorism expert and trains a team of men to go onto ships at sea that have been hijacked. When a North Sea oil production platform nicknamed Jennifer gets taken over by a group of men posing as reporters their leader (Anthony Perkins) demands an enormous ransom and it’s up to ffolkes and his team to board the platformed and kill the terrorists without allowing the ship, which has been booby-trapped with bombs by the criminals, to blow-up.

The film, which was based on the novel ‘Esther, Ruth & Jennifer’ by Jack Davies, who also wrote the screenplay, starts out well and has all the ingredients to being a compelling thriller. The on-location shooting done on an actual ship makes the viewer feel like they’re out at sea themselves and I found the foot chase done on the vessel during a raging rainstorm to be riveting. Perkins makes for a particularly slimy villain and Micheal Parks, as the mastermind who constructs and implements the bombs, was also impressive wearing glasses that make his eyes look like they’re bulging and it’s just a shame these two men had to co-star together as they’d be able to eat-up the scenes had they been allowed to do it alone without any henchmen.

The ffolkes character works against type playing a good-guy that tests the viewer’s assumption of what’s acceptable behavior for a protagonist. Too many movies create a hero-like caricature of someone who is overly noble, brave, and virtuous until it becomes boring and contrived. At least here the guy we’re supposed to cheering for is interestingly flawed therefore more human-like than super-heroes in most other films, especially those made today, who are just too-good-to-be-true.

ffolkes though does spend too much time sitting in the background working on a crochet of a cat while giving-off glib remarks and not being as active as he should. He’s also constantly drinking scotch at all hours of the day, straight out of the bottle, which should’ve made him inebriated and this most likely would’ve come into play at some later point where he wasn’t able to pull-off an intricate task because he was too drunk, but after introducing his drinking problem during the first half, it gets completely forgotten by the second.

While the character acts extraordinarily arrogant and cocky he’s not able to pull-off the assignment quite as easily as you’d think for someone with his amount of confidence. One scene has him stupidly walking right into a gunmen and it takes the sheer luck of someone hiding in a lifeboat to save him. Another scene has him almost killed by one of his own men making him seem like he’s not as good of an instructor as his reputation suggests and all leads to him unintentionally coming-off more like a deluded idiot than the crafty mastermind with a few personality quirks that he’s supposed to be.

The story, while having a solid set-up, ultimately becomes the biggest letdown. For one thing it never shows us how they’re able to pull-off the fake explosion of Ruth, another oil platform. They talk about rigging it to seem like it exploded to fool the bad guys, and we do see something exploding, but no explanation of what it was since the real Ruth secretly remains standing. Also, most ships have a radar system, which should’ve shown that the real Ruth never went away and that they had been duped, but for whatever reason they never catch-on.

The ending surprisingly lacks very little action, which is what was blamed for the film’s poor reception at the box office. People are expecting a movie that stars Moore to have a lot of stunt work and special effects and for the most part it never happens. The villains go down too easily making it not very satisfying to see them go. There needed to be more wrinkles to the scenario and more unexpected twists as the pay-off and climactic finish is weak making one feel, despite the excellent performances, like it wasn’t worth sitting through.

Alternate Title: North Sea Hijack

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: April 3, 1980

Runtime: 1 Hour 38 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

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