Year of the Gun (1991) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's Thoughts

I like political thrillers. I view them as easy-to-take history lessons which use the power of film to convey the feel of a particular time. John Frankenheimer is probably the king of the genre, since the original version of The Manchurian Candidate is nearly undisputed for the heavyweight championship belt among political thrillers, and Seven Days in May is also among the best. Those two films date all the way back to the sixties, and Frankenheimer is still making political thrillers forty years later. The recent Ronin is also his film. Year of the Gun in the middle of Frankenheimer's road somewhere, both in terms of both chronology and quality.

The subject is the infamous Red Brigade kidnapping and subsequent murder of the five-time Italian prime minister, Aldo Moro. The brigade was a "people's revolutionary" movement which opposed the increasing gulf between the rich and poor in Italy. It was a bad time for Italy, a country which often flirted with extremist politics in the 20th century, and the Brigade had some support from sympathetic students and leftist intellectuals. They were once close enough to mainstream Italian politics that they were even able to get funding from well-to-do liberals who supported the Brigade's ideals, if not their tactics. It was their conduct during the Moro kidnapping which cost them mainstream support and stripped away their radical chic.

One thing that has always been difficult for radicals to comprehend is that they compete for the hearts and minds of the people in the center. No matter what sort of extremist you are, right or left, there will be a solid core of people who agree with you or disagree with you based on their predispositions. Nothing that you can do or say will change their minds. If you are a radical environmentalist, the die-hard liberal 20% of the population will always support you, Rush Limbaugh and his 20% will always attack you. The success of your cause will depend on the 60% in the middle. The trick for any radical movement is to influence the center. Radicals are normally inept at this process for two reasons: (1) they tend to listen only to the people who agree with them completely; (2) since they are radicals, compromise is inimical to them. As a result, they end up pushing the center away instead of trying to woo it. The Moro kidnapping was basically the end of the road for the Red Brigade, because it stripped away their ideological purity and exposed them as brutal thugs, therefore causing all their centrist support to dissipate, and their revenue to dry up.

Andrew McCarthy plays an impoverished and apolitical American journalist caught in the middle of it all. He is writing a novel, and he accidentally creates a plot that parallels the Red Brigade's real plans. When details of his work leak out, he attracts the attention of the police, other journalists, and the Brigade itself. Although McCarthy is telling everyone the truth when he contends the similarities were coincidental, nobody believes him. Valeria Golino stars as his lover who turns out to be more than she first appears, and Sharon Stone is a gutsy and smart photojournalist who pretty much has scoped out all the players and their schemes, but can't prove what she suspects.

This is not on a par with Frankenheimer's best work and bombed at the box office, but it's not a bad flick, and has a twist at the end that caught me totally off-guard.



  • full-screen format

  • no meaningful features



Valeria Golino and Sharon Stone both showed breasts and buns. (Stone looks as good as she has even looked in her life, absolutely tanned and trim and stunning, but her exposed flesh was brief and limited.)

Tuna's Thoughts

Year of the Gun (1991) is a John Frankenheimer film starring Andrew McCarthy as an American journalist living in Italy during the peak of Red Brigade activity, Sharon Stone as an American photojournalist, and Valeria Golino as McCarthy's girlfriend. He wants to marry her, and take her and her son away from her estranged husband and back to the US, and starts writing a novel about the Red Brigade to earn the money. He bases it entirely on tidbits that had already been published, and a guess by his boss as to whom a good kidnap target would be for the brigade. Stone thinks the work is real, and wants a piece of it.

The journalist has accidently stumbled on the Brigade's real intentions, Golino is not who he thought she was, and Stone seduces him to get a look at his book. The brigade comes after all of them. The film was a little hard to follow, as it was about 30% Italian. Although they had English and Spanish subtitles, the subtitles only covered the English parts. The Rome and Venice locations are stunning, and the photography was top notch. What a shame this was a 4/3 ratio transfer.

The Critics Vote

  • Ebert 3/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their dollars: A failure. Only $1 million domestic gross
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or 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. 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.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. (Both reviewers). Tuna says, "Were the subtitles handled properly, and if this were a widescreen version, my grade would be higher, but with exposure from two famous women, beautiful scenery, and a decent Hitchcockian story, it is still a C+."

Return to the Movie House home page