Crusader (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Andrew McCarthy, action hero?

Yup, it is the same Andrew McCarthy whose career once consisted of playing the teenager who took himself far too seriously - and that was the 80s, when everyone else was just trying to have fun. Amazingly, McCarthy is still playing a 40ish variant on that same theme. In Crusader, he plays an investigative TV reporter for an up-and-coming international news station in Barcelona and he accidentally stumbles upon a major scoop when he receives a dying competitor's priceless action footage and decides to use it as his own.

The footage was obtained through raw courage in the face of a terrorist attack, so McCarthy becomes a cause celebre, and receives an offer from a super-sized news organization ala CNN or Sky News. Immediately, he seems to develop incredible contacts and to break story after story. It is only upon reflection and through some accidental discoveries that he begins to suspect that everything he has reported has been handed to him, and may have been orchestrated to seem what it is not, as part of a global plot to gain an information monopoly. The conspiracy runs so deep that everything McCarthy has believed may be false, and everyone McCarthy thinks he can trust  - his boss, his contact at interpol, etc - may just turn out to be another one of the many heads of the conspiracy hydra. He starts to wonder if his original lucky scoop was also somehow tied into the master scheme.

This is another serviceable B-level thriller from Bryan Goeres, who seems to specialize in international intrigue centered in Barcelona. This is the third such effort I've seen from him, following Art Heist and Face of Terror, and all three films feature a B-list American lead (McCarthy, William Baldwin, Rick Shroeder) battling conspiracy in Barcelona, all the while unable to speak a word of Castillian or Catalan. All of the films are respectable plot-driven films of made-for-TV caliber, none of them possessing any real originality, but all delivering a competent product capable of filling out cable schedules with some inexpensive original programming. They are the kind of films that you would never go out of the way to watch, but if you flop down on the couch and chance to catch them on cable, they do not drive you instantly to the remote. In fact, I thought Crusader was pretty good in the first half when it concentrated on the brain power and legwork necessary to unravel the mystery. The second half is less appealing because it devolves into an action film with the formerly wimpy, conflicted, guilt-driven McCarthy suddenly transformed into a heat-packin' journalistic equivalent of Indiana Jones. Like most failed action thrillers, Crusader relies on too many coincidences and improbable circumstances to assure the survival of the hero when he is being pursued.

Some examples:

  • McCarthy is about to be assassinated by a mercenary on a train platform when the arriving train suddenly floods the scene with a convenient crowd, enabling him to escape. The mercenary actually had the gun pointed and was in the process of squeezing the trigger.
  • Not too much later, McCarthy was helpless in the gun sight of another conspirator - same deal, gun pointed and trigger pulling pack - when the baddie was suddenly killed himself by a minor character of whose presence we were not then aware (and who we thought to be another baddie!)
  • My favorite implausible scene involves a mercenary who chases McCarthy through the concession stand at a soccer game. Although the concession stand is filled with freshly-prepared food and the arena is chock-a-block with screaming futbol fanatics, there is nobody in the concession area except McCarthy and the mercenary. No employees, no customers, no security guards, not a soul. The mercenary is blasting away noisily, and McCarthy is tipping over vats of popcorn and tables full of snacks, but nobody notices.

Except for the string of outrageous contrivances, the only really weak element of the film is that the minor roles are all filled in by people who speak little (or no) English. Many of them seem to be pronouncing the syllables phonetically, because they stress all the wrong syllables within words, and and all the wrong words within sentences, like a high school student who ignores the meaning of Shakespeare's words by trying to deliver blank verse in a perfect iambic beat. "Shall I com PARE thee TO a SUM mer's DAY?" Most of these actors had small parts, but Ana Alvarez had a large part as McCarthy's once and future girlfriend, and she was sometimes completely incomprehensible. The film is in English, but she needed English subtitles.

The most noteworthy element of this film, for better or worse, is the supporting cast. The interpol agent is played (quite competently despite an improbable Alabama accent) by Richard Tyson, the former boy-toy from such Zalman King efforts as Red Shoe Diaries and Two Moon Junction. The head of the gigantic global meta-network is played by Michael York with his usual meticulously embalmed looks and vaguely sinister charm. As usual in all newsroom dramas, there is a cynical, skeptical hard-edged Lou Grant type who trains the reporters, drives them hard, and makes them dig deeper. Guess who plays this part?

Your time is up, so I'm going to turn over all the cards and say "Bo Derek."




  • No meaningful features
  • Widescreen, anamorphically enhanced (16x9)


Ana Alvarez exposes one breast while she's on her back in a dark sex scene.

The Critics Vote ...

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The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C-, the kind of film you would never go out of the way to watch, but if you flop down on the couch and chance to catch it on cable, you may not reach for the remote.

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