Filmed in London by Gekko Film Corp. in association with Henry Winkler/John Rich Prods. and Paramount Network Television. Executive producers, Henry Winkler , John Rich, Richard Dean Anderson; producer, Michael Greenburg; co-producer, John B. Moranville; created by Lee David Zlotoff; director, Charles Correll; writer, John Considine; MacGyver is back — this time on the other side of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, his heroics in this made-for-TV movie have been conceived and executed in an understated British mode. Practically the most intrepid thing he does is look up an English castle in the library.
Of course, the title character of the popular ABC series, which ran from 1985 through 1992, is not known for his brawn. But his trademark technical wizardry fails to inspire here. Egghead fans of the series will be disappointed when, during the climax, he randomly fiddles with dials in a nuclear weapons factory.
MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) is in London for the birthday party of an old friend, Paul Moran (Nicholas Farrell), whose life he once saved. During the party, Paul is killed by terrorists and his daughter, Elise (Lena Headey), is kidnapped.
In his casual way, MacGyver sets out to avenge his friend’s murder. He’s backed by Paul’s brother (Peter Egan), who’s a billionaire industrialist. Ex-KGB agent Natalia (Beatie Edney) reluctantly lends a hand.
MacGyver learns that Paul was killed because he detected a secret nuclear plant, and the trail leads to an arms-peddling ring, though nowhere near doomsday.
It’s obvious from the get-go who’s responsible, despite some red herrings, and the story is clumsy by any standard. Scripter John Considine gets low marks for his preposterous and unthreatening villains, and for tacking on an extraneous green message. Not too much is made of the culture clash, but MacGyver tosses out some funny Americanisms during the last third.
Although he’s matured nicely, looking remarkably like a long-haired Jeremy Irons, Anderson is a surprisingly unsexy hero. Even dashing about in a red sports car fails to give him a spark.
The character is calm, cool and humane, but when his ingenuity underwhelms, there’s not much left. The balance of the mainly British cast is fine, with Alun Armstrong turning in an eerie performance as the gruff chief inspector.
Director Charles Correll lets some continuity problems slip by, but overall the production looks great. Director of photography David Geddes provides beautiful, if familiar, shots of London and environs, and production designer Tim Hutchinson creates some nice interiors. There’s a fairly high body count, and a touching funeral montage lends some genuine feeling to the proceedings.
“MacGyver” had a long enough network run to draw a decent audience. But this Thanksgiving filler won’t lead to any new syndication deals, and don’t look for fan club subscriptions to jump. “True Lies” it’s not, and a James Bond of the ‘ 90s he ain’t.