Our Weekly Entertainment Dispatch
A Lone Sheriff faces down a town controlled by ruffians – in space.
Lone Sheriff faces down a town controlled by ruffians – in space.
Outland (1981) is the classic one man against the world thriller that has made many a Hollywood hit. The premise is one good cop against a corrupt town menaced by a gang of criminals. If this sounds familiar, it should be. It is essentially the plot of the classic western, High Noon (1952).
Outland brings this story into the science fiction world and does so with aplomb. Director and writer Peter Hyams isn’t hiding the ball here. He takes the western classic and turns it into a fine sci-fi movie, replete with special effects and deep space dangers. He turns his idea into a very good movie.
Sean Connery was never known as a science fiction star and never made a western, but he is solid here as Federal Marshall William O’Niel. O’Niel is a thick-headed stubborn man who has let his personal foibles damage his career enough to be assigned to the worst post in the universe. He is the sole honest lawman in a mining town on Io, one of Jupiter’s moons. The assignment is so bad that his wife doesn’t last a month, taking their son and leaving him to fend for himself.
The town is controlled by the mining consortium, Con-Amalgamated (does it get any more big business than that?). A series of unusual deaths has O’Niel digging deep like any good detective. What he finds may kill him.
O’Niel uncovers a criminal conspiracy and, after stubbornly refusing to back down, takes on the bad guys against all odds. Classic western motif. O’Niel is alone on this futuristic outpost with only his trusty sawed off Remington 2000 shotgun. (it appears that this is the only weapon that exists in the future) His only ally is the washed-up town medic, Dr. Lazarus, played by Frances Sternhagen. Peter Boyle of all people plays the Con-Amalgamated boss running the town and maniacally focused on turning a profit through greater production. He is decent as the serious bad guy but it’s hard to shake images of Young Frankenstein out of your head as he threatens Connery with death.
The movie pulls of a decent array of special effects, although the zero gravity death scenes are a bit weak. The rest are quite good for their time and do a nice job incorporating the plot and environment. A fantastic soundtrack that was nominated for an Academy Award, and solid cinematography make this a film worth watching.
My biggest complaint about the film is the hats. I’m not kidding. Apparently, everyone in Peter Hyams future world is required to wear a baseball cap. It looks like the wardrobe crew bought 300 hats at the dollar store and went berserk with an embroidery machine. I hope that doesn’t ruin the movie for you, but I just don’t know what they were thinking.
This weekend, put on that free hat you got with the purchase of a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon in college and sail off to a world of sci-fi adventure with Outland. The movie runs a bit less than two hours. It doesn’t waste time with romance or love interests, it is a direct to point cop film that keeps the plot moving. We couldn’t find it for free, but it can be rented for $4 from the usual evil corporations willing to do anything to separate you from your $4. Enjoy the dangers of deep space’s zero atmosphere and keep working on that Sean Connery accent.
Enjoy the movie and Stay Safe!