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by Jack Sommersby

"Biehn Over Bourne"
4 stars

Except for a final-third that's kinda ridiculous, this is perfect Friday-night moviegoing fare..

After his phenomenal performance as Arnold Schwarzenegger's heroic nemesis in The Terminator, Michael Biehn's career should have taken off into the stratosphere. Instead, after some initial supporting work in A-list films (Aliens, The Abyss) he was unfortunately reduced to starring in straight-to-video fare, most of which were quite forgettable, with 1991's Timebomb that rare exception. He plays Eddie Kay, a mild-mannered Los Angeles watchmaker (the kind who makes PB&J sandwiches for lunch while reciting lines from a favorite TV flick that's on) who finds his docile existence upended after bravely saving a man from a burning building, which is caught on TV news and seen by a top secret-government agent (the usually-solid Richard Jordan) who used to employ Kay but ordered his termination after his conscience got the better of him in response to an operation involving a political assassination in the U.S. Kay's starting to experience violent flashbacks of a supposed past he can't recall along with some unexpected physical-fighting prowess that comes at a good time being that a group of highly-trained killers have been dispatched to mercilessly take him out. Also figuring into the mix is a beautiful psychoanalyst (the appealing Patsy Kinset) who Kay has seen for professional help and who unwittingly finds herself targeted as well. Naturally they fall in love and are determined to get to the core of Kay's past before a prominent politician and themselves are taken out for good. It's not lost on the viewer that the film's title refers to Kay himself: a multi-talented force of destructive nature steadily regressing back to his former quintessentially-dangerous self from his nebbishy Everyman. (Why he wasn't killed rather than just deprogrammed isn't explained.) This is the kind of goofy entertainment where the main villain is introduced on a hotel bed calling a phone-sex line, a long-abandoned laboratory still having working power just so Kay can get hooked up to the machine that programmed him, and occasional dialogue that's tin to the ear ("I know who I am. Somebody is trying to make me think I don't know who I am"). On the other hand, Kay is an interesting character more than worthy of rooting for, and Biehn's sense of decency and intensity keep us riveted to his perilous plight from start to finish. He manages to show us a hero who's both frightened and exhilarated by his newfound abilities (an aspect flubbed in The Bourne Identity). Also helping matters are the ace action sequences by writer/director Avi Nesher that are inventively staged and tautly put together for maximum tension, especially a knockout one inside an old-balconied theatre that's a marvel of finely-aligned spatial logistics. On the whole, Timebomb is far from plausible but works wonderfully as a character study and an undemanding, unapologetic B-movie that's swift, superb and swell enough to recommend to many the action-affectionado -- and also to die-hard fans of the can-do-no-wrong Michael Biehn, of course.

A little-known little treasure worth seeking out.

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originally posted: 06/06/09 09:51:57
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  27-Sep-1991 (R)

  N/A (18)

  N/A (R)

Directed by
  Avi Nesher

Written by
  Avi Nesher

  Michael Biehn
  Patsy Kensit
  Tracy Scoggins
  Robert Culp

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