Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Outland

OutlandCinema Monolith: 7/10 Film Reel
IMDb: 6.6/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: **½ out of 4

Released on May 22, 1981
Rated R
112 minutes

Directed by Peter Hyams

Written by Peter Hyams

Cast: Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, Frances Sternhagen, James B. Sikking, Kika Markham, Clarke Peters, Steven Berkoff, John Ratzenberger, P.H. Moriarty, Doug Robinson, Nicholas Barnes

I know it’s been mentioned, discussed, and written about a hundred times before, but the similarities between this film and a particular 1952 Western starring Gary Cooper are still too obvious to ignore: the ostracized sheriff of a dusty New Mexico town becomes the ostracized marshal on a distant moon, the wife who originally threatened to leave the town now threatens to leave the space station for Earth, and the hit men intent on killing the marshal arrive by space shuttle instead of train. And thus, what was once High Noon became Outland, an entertaining sci-fi action thriller from writer-director Peter Hyams, who took these Old West situations and themes and transplanted them to the far reaches of space.

Sean Connery plays O’Niel, the newly-assigned Federal District Marshal of the titanium-mining company Con-Amalgamated, whose arrival at a compound on the Jupiter moon Io coincides with a sudden rash of psychotic episodes among the employees, which result in the none-too-pleasant (okay, I’ll say it: explosive decompression) deaths of said employees. Determined to track down the source of the problem, O’Niel soon finds himself knee-deep in trouble when he discovers Con-Am 27’s mining manager Sheppard—played by a seriously smug Peter Boyle—is supplying his employees with a drug that increases their productivity (and Sheppard’s profits), but deep-fries their gray matter once their tour of duty ends.

I’ll give Hyams credit: usually, his directorial work is more miss (Sudden Death, A Sound of Thunder) than hit (The Star Chamber), but I thought he did a fairly decent job with this one, taking an established story and giving it a fresh, futuristic slant, and doing it in a way that held my interest throughout. The pace was good, the slow reveals offered some suspense, and the interior atmosphere had a grungy, Alien-like feel to it all. In the long run, however, there was never a doubt this was Connery’s show; his marshal was no-nonsense tough, with a little world-weariness thrown in, and thankfully the script steered clear of the temptation of Bond-like one-liners and attitudes. Connery was easily the most watchable and enjoyable aspect of the film, and I couldn’t wait to see how he was going to handle his impending predicament.

Unfortunately, it was then that Hyams the writer proceeded to botch it all up. Instead of having this character we’ve been pulling for all story long – this intelligent, bad-ass marshal who carries a shotgun and takes no crap from anyone – taking care of business inside this sprawling outpost, which in turn was filled with cat-and-mouse combat potential, Hyams put Connery in a bulky space suit and shoved him outside—sans weaponry—to bounce and float around the empty exterior, easily disposing of the assassins via simple trickery. It was silly, rushed, and all too anti-climactic, and the anticipated finale of Connery going head-to-head with these killers was nowhere to be found. To me, it was just plain careless; one look at the poster above will tell you, you don’t hide this kind of hero in a Michelin Man outfit and expect us to care what happens next.

Still, it was a fun adventure yarn, even with that regrettable conclusion, and with nothing too complex or thought-provoking to get in the way of a relaxing movie night, I’d say it’s definitely worth a look, and more so if you’re a fan of Connery and his post-007 tough-guy roles. And would I classify this as one of those rare hits for Hyams? I’d say yes, and if it weren’t for a few wrong turns (and the most horrible DVD print of a film I’ve ever had the misfortune to sit through), this might have been the pinnacle of Hyams’ forty-plus years of filmmaking. And looking back, it still might be.  (7/10)

Outland - photo Connery final

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10 comments on “Outland

  1. This is one Connery film I like to go back to and perhaps I like it as I do because it has a “western” feel to it. Snagged an original film poster on this about a month ago for the collection.

    • Todd Benefiel
      1/17/15

      I agree, that is one wicked-looking poster, and a nice score for your collection. I remember seeing the poster in theaters back in 1981 and thinking, yeah, I’ve gotta see this movie. And as far as Connery ‘space’ posters go, I’ve got Diamonds Are Forever on my wall…I just love that 70s style of artwork. Thanks for stopping by, Mike!

  2. Stu
    1/28/15

    Hey Todd…is this well-known? At the risk of sounding even more at sea than usual I’ve never heard of it, but it looks like the kind of thing I should have caught on TV about half a dozen times by now! I like Connery and I also like space and violence too, so I’ll be on the lookout for it. Hyams is unfamiliar to me as well. 40 + films? Are you making these facts up? Who do I see about a refund around here?

    • Todd Benefiel
      1/29/15

      I’d say yes, it’s well-known, but maybe I think that because I know it so well, and because it’s one of my Dad’s favorite Connery performances. And yeah, if you like the combo of Connery + space + violence, then this should be right up your alley; but remember, the DVD print is for crap…if you can find it on cable, I’d give that version a try first. There is a Blu-ray release, and one reviewer on Amazon says the print is quite good, so maybe that’s the way to go.

      And for ‘faulty fact’ refunds, please contact the web administrator at the Jason Statham fan site Popcorn Nights.

      • Stu
        1/30/15

        Funny you should mention Statham. I’m in France at the moment and caught a bit of Snatch on TV last night, which was dubbed in French. I think that might be my favourite performance of his to date. He sounded a bit camp as a result.

      • Todd Benefiel
        1/30/15

        Ha, that’s great! Sièges et un volant! You should watch Statham films in ALL languages, and maybe find one that’s to your liking. Parker in German, The Transporter in Croatian…I’ll have you loving his films somehow!

  3. Tysoncarter182
    4/19/15

    Man it took time to remember your site name, now I see your about as active as I’ve been! You still around dude?

    • Todd Benefiel
      4/19/15

      Holy crap, you’re alive! Thanks for tracking me down…I’ve been wondering what the heck happened to you: incarceration, witness protection, amnesia? Anyway, good to have you back. I just took a look at Head in a Vice, and I see it’s alive again as well…but what about Talking Horror? Did it talk itself…TO DEATH?

      Anyway, yes I’m still around, and my site is still active, but I’ve been busy starting a new job in January, and moving to a new apartment in February-March. But now I’m settled, and have been working on getting the CM site kick-started again. I’ve been prepping some new reviews and getting some new ideas for posts worked out. So look for a review hopefully this week. Nice to hear from you again, Tyson!

      • Tysoncarter182
        4/19/15

        Sadly all my stuff was hacked into, stupid for having the same password I guess. Data, emails, contacts, all wiped out by some malicious scum. Even got into my banking too so all in all it wasnt a great time. I was gutted, but made worse for all you guys helping with talkinghorror, and all the work you did just gone. I had no access to the site, and whilst the hosts eventually gave me compensation for what I’d paid all the work was gone. But now, 6 months on, I thought I’d revive the old site and just do occasional posts just to keep it ticking over. Lost all followers though and had to make a new username, but it feels good to be back in the game. Sort of. Just sorry again for all the hassle, was so much fun planning and working with you and the other contributors and it was over way too quickly.

        Happy to see your still around though Todd, and thats great about the job/apartment (I guess, unless its a bad thing!) 🙂

      • Todd Benefiel
        4/19/15

        That stinks, Tyson! Sorry to hear that all that happened, but I’m glad you’re back in action. I did go back to your site and become a follower again, and thanks for re-following both of my blogs! And the job/apartment situation is definitely a good thing…I’m now in a place where I feel a lot more comfortable working at my computer on the sites, so I’m anxious to get back and start posting again on a regular basis. Good to see your ‘vice head’ avatar back on the site again!

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