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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Power To Impress
by Richard Jack Smith

For reasons known only to combatants, hate at first sight carries its own logic. Very often, itís impossible to find a solution. In John Frankenheimerís The Fourth War, a commander with long experience operates a post thousands of kilometres away from the action. The man in question, Colonel Jack Knowles (Roy Scheider), resents his Russian counterpart, Colonel Valachev (JŁrgen Prochnow). They share the border, each to his own until Jack crosses the line.

Such a tightly focused production could quickly evaporate if the performers came from the wrong weight division. So itís a measure of good observation that Scheider and Prochnow end up empowered by the written word. The script was penned by Kenneth Ross and Stephen Peters (adapting the latterís book).

For Prochnow, creating a four-dimensional character presented a unique challenge. Because a potential cardboard cut-out could result, he was extra diligent about establishing a lived-in personality, not just someone that happened upon this situation. As such, he appears to relish every new scene, and what it means for the drama.

Indeed, actors must yearn for the spotlight in new and endearing ways. Thatís what keeps their craft spontaneous. Itís also why we remain attentive. Regarding Scheider, his special moment involves a border crossing. He surprises some Russian soldiers. In a drunken state, he forces them to sing him happy birthday, the language barrier creating its own novelty.

Getting past Bill Contiís appalling score, The Fourth War finds director John Frankenheimer on highly competent form. Actually, youíre less likely to encounter any Machiavellian deceptions here for he develops a straight line that the audience can follow and retrace.

(Released by Cannon Film Distributors and rated R" by the MPAA.)

For more information about The Fourth War, go to the IMDb or  Rotten Tomatoes website.

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