Ray Liotta and Erin Karpluk in an interesting (albeit highly flawed) remake of a noir classic!
vt Code Black: President Down
Canada / 90 minutes / color / Odyssey, Nasser Group North, Province of British Columbia Film Incentive BC, CPTC, Insight, Cinedigm Dir: Uwe Boll Pr: Kirk Shaw Scr: Raul Inglis Story (uncredited): Suddenly (1954 screenplay) by Richard Sale Cine: B. Uegama Cast: Ray Liotta, Erin Karpluk, Dominic Purcell, Don MacKay, Cole Coker, Tyron Leitso, Michael Paré, Steve Bacic, Garry Chalk, Brendan Fletcher, Darryl Shuttleworth, Chris Shields, Haig Sutherland.
This is a remake (albeit this goes unacknowledged in the credits) of the well regarded 1954 movie SUDDENLY, dir Lewis Allen, with Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Nancy Gates. For obvious reasons, then, I won’t go into the plot in too much detail.
En route to his vacation, the US President is going to make a brief, hitherto unannounced stop in the remote small town of Suddenly. The secret services, led by Agent Dan Carney (Bacic), descend on the town a few hours beforehand to establish security measures in cooperation with local Police Chief Grant (Chalk) and his two deputies, Reg Anderson (Fletcher) and Tod Reed (Liotta)—the credits get the latter character’s wrong, listing him as Tod Shaw.
It’s a wonder Tod (Ray Liotta) is still maintained by the PD.
And it’s largely because of the goodwill of Chief Grant (Garry Chalk) that he is.
But a domestic terrorist group, the Committee, has got wind of the whistlestop visit and sent in a trio of fake agents, Baron (Purcell), Wheeler (Leitso) and Conklin (Paré). These three take over, with her permission, the home of Pete Howard (MacKay), his widowed daughter Ellen (Karpluk) and her unruly 11-year-old son Pidge (Coker), claiming that they’re part of the security operation. In fact, as they very soon make clear, they plan to use the house’s ideal vantage point and a high-powered rifle to gun down the President; it’s a wonder Clint Eastwood didn’t do a remake lauding the American snipers.
Pidge (Cole Coker) is the first to notice the security helicopters.
The remainder of the movie concerns, as you’d expect, the efforts of Pete, Ellen and Pidge to thwart both their captors and the assassination attempt. In this they’re helped by electrician Judd (Sutherland) and by Tod, who served with Ellen’s husband Mike in Iraq and who has long held a torch for her; alas, even though Pidge tends to regard him as a father figure, Tod’s drinking habit has handicapped his clumsy efforts at courtship.
Ellen (Erin Karpluk) tries to saw through the basement window bars.
This is not a tremendously good movie. (It was released DTV in most countries, direct-to-internet in the US, and theatrically only in in its home country of Canada.) Most irritating of all are the countless continuity errors—at one moment, for example, Tod and Baron are fighting each other in the basement, the next they’re outside the house; elsewhere, Baron ruthlessly shoots down one of his confreres simply because the man’s arguing with him (he’s earlier garroted another) yet, soon afterwards, he merely KOs the far more dangerously hostile Tod. In short, if you used the continuity errors for a drinking game, you’d stop noticing them by about halfway through the movie.
Ellen’s bedroom shrine to deceased husband Mike.
There’s also a bit of bathos (after they’ve both been tied to a radiator by the baddies, Tod confesses to Ellen that he was more involved in Mike’s death in Iraq than he’s hitherto admitted) that’s introduced completely out of left field seemingly for no other purpose than to appeal to the soap-opera crowd. Overall, then, the direction is pretty sloppy—perhaps terminally so, if you’re in critical mood.
Deputy Anderson (Brendan Fletcher) is woefully slow on the uptake.
Yet it’s worth persevering. Liotta turns in one of his better performances as the drunken war vet rediscovering his spine, and we get splendid turns from Coker, MacKay, Karpluk, Paré and perhaps most especially Purcell.
Ellen (Erin Karpluk) confronts another betrayal.
That wouldn’t be enough reason in itself to keep watching. What gives the movie its genuine interest is, despite that ghastly bathetic lurch, its screenplay. Scripter Inglis has recast the movie from its original template not just in terms of minor plot changes but also in the basic motivation of the villains.
Pete Howard (Don McKay) reminisces to his grandson Pidge (Cole Coker).
Just as The MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962), originally a paranoid Red Peril movie, could be remade without any sense of jar as a warning about a far-right Menace Within, The MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (2004), so does this version of Suddenly work almost better as a warning of far-right domestic terrorism than it did in its original incarnation. Here’s Baron stroking the flag as he explains the ideology:
Baron: “If we’re prepared to do anything we can to achieve our goals, then the American people can be tall and proud once more. And America can regain its rightful place as the greatest country on earth.”
Baron (Dominic Purcell, leftl) and Conklin (Michael Paré) evaluate the sniping vantage.
Sound familiar? Then there’s
Baron: “I don’t give a fuck. My only concern is the death of this president. He’s destroyed my country, your country, taken away the very principles and morals that made this country great. We have to end this.”
Tod (Ray Liotta) struggles with his captors to no avail.
Again, the inflammatory rhetoric is all too familiar to students of the wingnut media. The message that the movie’s focus is far-right domestic terrorism rather than the destabilizing efforts of a foreign power is hammered home by other bits of dialogue, such as
Wheeler: “When do we knock off the family?”
Conklin: “Don’t be a fuckin idiot.”
Wheeler: “You’re a fuckin idiot.” [This is known as dialectic.]
Conklin: “You murder an old man, a mother and son, you lose all sympathy for the Cause. Nobody wants another Timothy McVeigh. You jeopardize the greater good, they’ll come down on both of us like a fuckin hammer.”
Despite appearances, Wheeler (Tyron Leitso) is as ruthless as any.
The President (Chris Shields) addresses the townsfolk of Suddenly.
And the implication becomes specific when the President (Shields) finally makes a brief appearance: he’s quite clearly intended as a representation of Obama. It’s this political awareness—edginess, even—that primarily makes Suddenly worth its ninety minutes.