The Presidio (1988)

Directed by: Peter Hyams
Category: Thriller

This was a film I never felt the urge to watch ever since it was released. I don't know, the cover just doesn't do it for me, neither does the title. But as an adult, I love classic Peter Hyams films, no matter what the genre is. The guy was such an accomplished filmmaker in his prime, the 1980's and 1990's. Running Scared, Sudden Death, Timecop, Outland, 2010, all great fun films and visually an unmistakable Peter Hyams film.

So yea, then there's The Presidio, tucked away in his filmography between Running Scared and Timecop. One of the things I love about Netflix Instant is that it gives me the opportunity to watch films that I would not have given a second thought to. Films like this. Yet, as I browse occasionally when I'm looking for something to watch or play in the background, they suggest films to me based on my viewing history and this one popped up. I was intrigued. And I was also in the mood or something light and simple. An old school style thriller from the 80's, and this one certainly fit the bill. How was it? Here we go.

I actually liked this one a lot. It's a simply paint-by-numbers thriller about a civilian detective (Harmon), who teams up with a Colonel (Connery), his former commanding officer, to investigate the death of a soldier on base. There's nothing flashy or complex about this film at all. Nothing that makes it stand out from all the others that would make you remember it. But I think that's why I liked it so much. It's a competently made thriller with a visual panache, as Hyams is certainly capable of when he's running on all cylinders. There are no big action sequences or explosions or anything like that, but there is a good foot chase and small car chase sequence thrown in there, along with the films final showdown sequence, which was entertaining enough that it made up for the lack of any action for the majority of the film. But that's still not a complaint because I never got bored. All the leads were great, the film looked amazing and it possesses that old school "feel" about it.

There is one scene that will always stand out for me. It offers nothing to the film in general and is in reality a filler shot of someone walking up a flight of stairs outside an apartment building. It's the angle Hyams chose, the way he shot it and how he framed it that make it so amazing and why I love the way he directs films. It's a shot nobody would or should care about, but I do because it's a testament to this guy's talent as a director with enough visual ingenuity that he can make something so simple look so amazing.

For me, this was a great way to spend 90 minutes late at night. It reminded me of how films used to be made. Simple effective stories and execution. Oh, and before I forget. There's a scene where Sean Connery's character actually beats the shit out of a bigger dude in a bar by simply using his thumb. The best part is that he actually tells the poor schlob this before he does it. He tells him that he's going to beat the shit out of him by simply using his thumb, so at least the guy knew what he had coming. It needs to be seen to be believed, and it was definitely awesome.


  1. Been meaning to watch this one for a while. I think I was put off by the title too!

    I really like Peter Hyams' work though. He's a damn solid director. I don't know why he hasn't got a bigger fan base. I guess it's something to do with the fact that he's done just about one of every genre and hasn't got an obviously flashy or recognisable style like say Tony Scott or Brian DePalma. I'm not saying his style's flat it's just very no nonsense and to the point. Which can be a good thing sometimes.

    1. You're exactly right. Not flashy and to the point, which is how a lot of films should be made. I don't know why he slowly got off the map. I can't explain it. End of Days and The Relic could have been made better, but they're not horrible. Most filmmakers are given a second chance and he's still working today, he just hasn't been given the right film to show off his chops I suppose. At the top of his game, he reminds me of a more restrained Tony Scott. I really, really hope he gets back to making big films again.

    2. Actually, it looks like he just completed a film with Van Damme called Enemies Closer. Sweet!! Another Van Damme collaboration. Maybe this will mark his return to badass filmmaking? I love how he and his son are both making films with Van Damme at the same time. lol. Awesome.

  2. Yeah, I think End of Days was a misstep (still annoyed Sam Raimi didn't direct that, he was in talks apparently!) and then A Sound of Thunder really put the brakes on his career (mostly Franchise Pictures mismanagement).

    Just checked out some stills of Enemies Closer - Van Damme looks crazy! Good to see him back working though. It's one of those cheap After Dark Action films. Probably a good place for him to start rebuilding his career.