Reviewed By Jack Sommersby
Posted 11/18/20 06:03:37

"Some of Christopher Walken's Best Work"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Barely released at the time, it's worth seeking out.

"This is Beirut. No one needs a reason to kill anyone. Here you don't kill who you want, you kill who you can," Christopher Walken's newly-arrived television correspondent Don Stevens is lectured to by another reporter upon arriving in Lebanon in the interesting, textured Deadline. Don has covered wartime stories before, but he's been taking it easy as of late and doing soft assignments, with his previous one a Paris fashion show; he's been ordered to Beirut by his network to temporarily cover for another reporter, and he has little interest in putting in much in the way of effort - he uses leftover unused footage from his colleagues, and when an important speech by Arafat at his hotel is set to begin Don shucks it off and goes to lounge at the pool with his Walkman instead, prompting his cameraman to quit and his employer to ball him out the next morning. Burned-out and noncommittal, Don isn't the most likeable character in the world at first, and it was a good move to cast the eclectic Walken in the role, for he's such an unpredictable actor he manages to give Don some levels a less creative actor would never think of, which helps free him of cliche and not quite so easy to peg. Yes, in dramatic terms Don has been obviously conceived as a soul that needs to be "awakened" much like in similar pictures in similar roles played by Nick Nolte in Under Fire and James Woods in Salvador, but Walken plays the character as if it had never been played before and almost always manages to come up with something fresh. To redeem himself with his network Don agrees to go to a secret location to do an interview with a well-known PLO leader who insists he wants the fighting to stop between his side and the Israelis who've bombarded the country, only Don has been played for the fool, for a day after this supposed breakthrough story's been broadcast it's revealed the man was an imposter used for propaganda purposes, which winds up triggering even more violence not only between the PLO and Israelis but with Beirut's Christian Phalangists. In turn, a humiliated Don becomes committed to covering the conflict, even going so far as to take crazy chances going to dangerous locations chock-full of heavily-armed soldiers. Don's wife left him years ago because of the extensive traveling involved with his profession, and when asked where he lives he replies, "My home is my suitcase," with Walken easing into the line and conveying a world-weariness that's completely convincing. So it's fascinating seeing Don come alive and display genuine investigative talent, and pleasurable to watch Walken come through with his finest performance since his haunted psychic in 1983's extraordinary The Dead Zone (He unfortunately fizzled two years earlier with a bland villainous portrait in the James Bond A View to a Kill.) But Walken isn't the whole show here. The supporting cast of mostly unknown thespians is first-rate, and, considering Deadline is a political polemic, the dialogue is adult-oriented that never veers into the didactic. Added to which, the production design and location shooting (the movie was filmed in Israel) are superb, which help make up for Nathaniel Gutman's merely passable directing that pales in comparison to the jazzy verve of Roger Spottiswoode's in Under Fire and Oliver Stone's in Salvador. Deadline is never boring, dares to be multi-faceted (there's no easy side to take in the conflict), and is thankfully absent of the sententiousness that eventually neutralized Costa-Gavras's well-meaning Chile-set Missing - it's one of those low-key independent efforts shorn of cheap sensationalism. All in all, this is a solid entertainment.

Not even a DVD of it is available. A shame.

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