The British actor Brian Cox doesn’t exactly have a movie-star face (he resembles a wormy, pockmarked version of newscaster Robert MacNeil), but he has a star’s quiet authority. In Michael Mann’s Manhunter, he played the brilliant psychopath Dr. Lecter with an imperious nonchalance that seemed to melt the walls around him. Now, in this absorbingly intelligent political- cover-up drama, Hidden Agenda, he gives a commanding performance as a British government investigator, Peter Kerrigan (loosely based on real-life Scotland Yard officer John Stalker), who is assigned to sort out the murder of an American civil liberties lawyer (Brad Dourif) in early-’80s Belfast. Kerrigan quickly stumbles onto a conspiratorial nightmare: The murder was committed by British soldiers, and the upper echelons of Her Majesty’s government are involved. When Kerrigan sticks his nose in, he discovers a rat’s nest of dirty tricks. By now, conspiracy films have a built-in limitation: It’s hard to be shocked anymore by revelations of low behavior in high places. But Cox’s performance has a raw anger and disgust, and this movie about the British occupation of Northern Ireland packs a punch. B+
Genre: Mystery and Thriller; Starring: Brian Cox, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, Mai Zetterling; Director: Ken Loach; Status: In Season; Runtime (in minutes): In Season; MPAA Rating: In Season; Distributor: MGM/UA Home Video
Posted December 7 1990 — 12:00 AM EST
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