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The Fourth Protocol
cast: Michael Caine, Pierce Brosnan, Joanna Cassidy, Ned Beatty, and Ian Richardson

director: John Mackenzie

115 minutes (15) 1987
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Prism Leisure DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Tom Johnstone
If there's a scene that sums up this adaptation of Frederic Forsyth's novel, it's an apparently throwaway scene on a tube train. The hero, Michael Caine's tough guy spy, sees a black youth wearing a CND badge reduced to tears by the racist invective of a pair of Nazi skinheads. Hilariously, Caine punches both of them simultaneously unconscious, before nonchalantly exiting the train. My first instinct was to applaud this altruistic act of militant antifascism. However the CND badge foreshadows the film's climax, where a US airbase is under threat from a rogue Soviet agent (Pierce Brosnan) with a homemade nuclear device, as antiwar demonstrators march on the base. From the film's tone, we're supposed to think: 'How misguided they are! If only they knew the work our brave security operatives are doing to protect their freedom to march, the treacherous swines!'

Talking of traitors, one is played by Anton Rodgers, who did the narration for the charming animated Old Bear Tales, which are one of my three-year-old daughter's favourites. But I'll never be able to hear his gentle soothing tones now, without thinking of Ian Richardson threatening Rodgers with blowtorches and pliers. Michael Caine is being played for a fool by Richardson (his boss), the revelation of which leads to a classic Caine put-down: "You belong in a facking museum!"

As for his steely adversary, the casting of Pierce Brosnan is interesting in retrospect, in the light of his subsequent career as one of the more successful latter-day James Bonds. Here he plays the kind of all-round bad guy 007 is always tackling. However, this villain's ruthlessness and relentless sex drive are remarkably similar to the Her Majesty's favourite secret agent. But unlike Bond, Brosnan's character here swings both ways, and as soon as he has finished with his conquests, he dispatches them with Siberian sang froid. As for the other Russians, they speak English amongst themselves for some unknown reason - they don't even bother to put on Russian accents. And whose idea was it to cast Ned Beatty as a Russian?

On the whole, The Fourth Protocol is a forgettable 1980s' Cold War thriller that can be filed alongside the Lewis Collins vehicle Who Dares Wins (1983). Just ignore the scaremongering and wallow in nostalgia for a time when there were two superpowers.

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