vt Le Guet-Apens
Canada / 95 minutes / color / Image Dir: Marc Voizard Pr: Pierre David, Stefan Wodoslawsky Scr: Thomas Ritz Cine: Stephen Reizes Cast: Roddy Piper, Jane Wheeler, Alina Thompson, Tyrone Benskin, Christopher Bolton, Miles O’Keeffe, Dennis O’Connor, Richard Zeman, Clare Sims, David Nichols, Claudia Besso, Vlasta Vrana, Mark Camacho.
The murdered Elkins (David Nichols) breathes his last.
Massachusetts auto mechanic Frank Gibson (Piper) is looking forward to his imminent marriage to Janet “Jan” Atkinson (Besso), only to see a drunk driver (Camacho) mow her down. As the drunk offers to “pay for any damage” a furious Frank punches him on the jaw. The man falls, hits his head, and dies . . . with the result that Frank is consigned for three years to a minimum-security prison.
One day he witnesses the two guards Pappas (O’Connor) and Watters (Zeman) murder Harvey Elkins (Nichols), a financier serving time for corrupt dealings. As the guards try to kill Frank in turn, he goes on the run; Watters in fact catches him but, as he prepares to murder Frank, they struggle over the gun and the usual happens. So now Frank is wanted for two murders, because obviously he’s being framed for Elkins’s death ‑‑ and, since one of the dead men was employed in law enforcement, the cops aren’t in much of a mood to take Frank alive.
The conniving Vince Mallick (Miles O’Keeffe).
Desperate to clear his name, he makes his way across country to the home of Pappas, arriving just in time to find the corrupt guard recently murdered by psycho private-security-company boss Vince Mallick (O’Keeffe) . . . and to put his fingerprints all over everything, something that in due course the CSI investigators apparently entirely ignore. Frank does discover that Pappas made a lot of phonecalls to a number in Albany, so he makes his way there and contacts his formerly wastrel kid brother Andy (Bolton) for help.
Pappas (Dennis O’Connor) meets his end at Mallick’s hands.
Frank’s kid brother Andy (Christopher Bolton) shows his old wastrel days are behind him.
By now FBI Agent Kate Gallagher (Wheeler) and her sidekick Boyd (Benskin) are on the case; Boyd is an old buddy of Vince Mallick’s from when they were cops together. Like the cops, Gallagher assumes Frank is guilty, but is anxious to reach him before the cops do in order to save him from being gunned down on sight.
FBI agents Kate Gallagher (Jane Wheeler) and Boyd (Tyrone Benskin).
Dodging cops and investigating where he can, Frank is able to uncover evidence that the murder of Harvey Elkins was set up by, you guessed it, Vince Mallick, who was at the police academy with Pappas, and that Mallick had in turn been hired by Sylvia Elkins (Thompson), the financier’s trophy second wife, to arrange the murder: while officially the Elkinses are completely bankrupt, in fact Harvey and Sylvia cunningly salted away a valise full of cash in a storage facility. Naturally the cops investigating Harvey’s crimes never thought to look there!
The scheming widow Sylvia (Alina Thompson).
The plot of Marked Man doesn’t bear even the least rigorous examination. Despite the fact that he has failed to serve out his full sentence and has killed a couple of people since his escape (both times accidentally and in self-defense, but still . . .), at movie’s end Frank seems to have been given a clean bill of legal health, just like that. Earlier, searching through Mallick’s videotapes for the one that he knows will incriminate Mallick and Sylvia, Frank cries “Bingo!” as he reaches the right one . . . even though Mallick has with fiendish cleverness labeled it “Hawaii” so that no one could pick it out among the rest. Frank gets repeatedly punched and even kicked in the face, yet magically shows no bruises; a couple of the people who’re killed remain remarkably unbloodied. Elkins’s daughter Lisa (Sims) seems on first appearance to have despised her dead father; later it’s evident she loved him dearly, and will risk her life to make sure Sylvia doesn’t get away with the murder. There’s more. Match it to dialogue with lines like (Mallick to Pappas) “You wouldn’t know ‘perfect’ if it jumped up and bit you in the ass” and you realize you’re not dealing with a movie that was premiered at Cannes.
Frank surprises Mallick’s goons with a booby trap.
Even so, Marked Man is actually quite fun, in its own lowbrow way. Piper, a Canadian who made a long career as a highly successful professional wrestler (pretending he was a Scot), is less assured as an actor when he’s outside the ring. We get a tediously protracted scene of him taking part in a wrestling contest when he’s in prison, and bouts of him engaging in a sort of slow-motion martial arts are frequently interspersed throughout the movie. While it’s clear from these and some of his other feats that he’s in extraordinary athletic condition (he was in his forties when he made this), running seems not to be among his skills: he lumbers rather than sprints, which creates an odd effect of cognitive dissonance when he supposedly outruns, for example, a brace of German shepherd dogs. But he’s a personable enough hero for us to cheer, while O’Keeffe, hamming it up, is a villain satisfactorily vile enough for us to boo.
Frank (Roddy Piper) escapes from the bad guys yet again.
There are some good performances in supporting roles, though. Sims is excellent as the gawky adolescent dealing with both the need to dramatically downsize her future expectations and the suspicion that her despised stepmother was behind Dad’s death. Bolton is equally good as the flake of a brother, a petty-crook miscreant who has managed to straighten himself out and who, when it counts, displays courage and intelligence. O’Connor delivers the goods as the murderously craven guard.
Frank and Vince in the Last Duke-Out.
Marked Man has all the feel of a TV movie, yet as far as I can establish it was given a theatrical release in at least some territories.
The French vt means literally The Ambush.