George C. Scott’s Cornelius
Wettering, sea captain whose oil ship blew up on its way to South Africa and who now owns a bar in Curacao, harbors a major secret as if his life depends on it. It does in the suspenseful yarn concocted by scripter James David Buchanan.
Buchanan and director Carl Schultz establish good characters, good atmosphere and a good, involving entertainment akin to a Graham Greene novel, a spy drama in which Scott effortlessly expands the role. Scott’s Wettering indulges himself in a friendship with the American consulate’s security chief Guerin (William Petersen), whose background involves an unfortunate killing, among other colorful trifles.
That ship went down on purpose, and Wettering has the log from the Chinese and the South Africans, who were involved in the explosion. American Intelligence sends Julia Fernandez (Julie Carmen), whose past affair with Guerin surfaces, to watch over Guerin, and to pass along a surprising message to the security chief.
Schultz keeps a tight grasp onthe intricacies of the drama, using the Curacao locales without exploiting them — it’s no postcard tour. The plot’s neatly camouflaged by indirect dialogue and assured acting as the not-so-undercover agents go about their spy business. Some of the killings are grim, but they’re quick and effective; side issues are jauntily passed over in favor of the main storyline.
Scott’s terrif, and Petersen’s not far behind. Carmen is strong in her purposeful role. Alexei Sayle as the comfortable South African agent Seemuller is solid, as are George Kee Cheung and Tony Lam as dangerous Chinese brothers.
Art Levinson’s production captures the jaded spirit of the story, and Ellery Ryan’s camerawork is top stuff. Tech credits are strong.