The makers of this grimly functional assassination thriller were smart enough to stake their story on the end of the Cold War. Too bad for them the East-West thaw happened more quickly than anyone expected. In the time it has taken the movie to reach video, its up-to-the-minute premise has suddenly begun to look mighty musty.
Gene Hackman brings his sly-eyed, ordinary-Joe charisma to the role of Johnny Gallagher, a U.S. Army sergeant trying to keep a right-wing conspiracy from murdering Gorbachev. Tommy Lee Jones, ladling on the smiley rot, is the ruthlessly efficient killer. The movie lifts its hook from The Manchurian Candidate, but that’s about all. After teasing us with references to clandestine Vietnam operations and inner-city white-supremacist groups (always good for a gaudy scene), the plot devolves into a standard can-he-stop-him-in-time suspenser.
Forget the Cold War: If The Package is about the end of anything, it’s the paranoid-conspiracy genre. These movies no longer hold any surprises. The dirty tricks and dark ”revelations,” the corrupt maniacs in high places — we’ve been watching this stuff for nearly 20 years, and it’s getting awfully old.
The movie’s one feature of real wit is the actor who plays Gorbachev. He’s seen only in glimpses, but he’s more than just a clone. He’s mastered Gorby’s way of smiling warmly without looking anyone directly in the eye. B-