REVIEW: The Osterman Weekend (1983) - ManlyMovie

REVIEW: The Osterman Weekend (1983)


This 1983 version of author Robert Ludlum’s (The Bourne Identity) novel deals with voyeurism, surveillance, corruption and madness and stars Rutger Hauer, John Hurt and Burt Lancaster.  The film is also Sam Peckinpah’s (The Wild Bunch, Ride the High Country) swan song.

The movie begins strangely enough with grainy CCTV footage of a beautiful blonde naked girl being murdered.  We then discover that the girl was CIA operative Lawrence Fassett’s (John Hurt) wife.  She was murdered as part of deal struck with the KGB by CIA Director Maxwell Danforth (Burt Lancaster).

Sometime after, Fassett comes to Danforth, with evidence of the ‘Omega Network’ which supposedly is a group of Soviet spies composed of three men, Joseph Cardone (Chris Sarandon), Richard Treymayne (Dennis Hopper) and Bernie Osterman (Craig T. Nelson).

Fassett wants to use liberal television journalist and TV show host, John Tanner (Rutger Hauer), and mutual friend of all three men in the Omega Network, to convince at least one of them to cooperate with the government.

After some initial reluctance, Tanner, agrees to help implicate his friends at their annual weekend reunion after seeing secret videotapes of his friends contacting shady people.  Tanner also agrees to let Fassett’s CIA men fill his house with cameras and surveillance equipment.

This ‘Osterman’ weekend is held at Tanner’s sprawling, luxurious ranch house, where he lives with his wife, Ali (Meg Foster) and their young son.  The weekend get-together soon turns from genial socializing to excessive drinking, fighting and paranoia.  All of which are seen under the watchful eye of Fassett.

Tanner’s guests eventually decide to leave rashly in the middle of night in a RV.  Their RV is then blown up by a now insane Fassett, who reveals that the Omega Network, was just a tax evasion scheme, and Tanner’s friends were not really Soviet spies.

Fassett ultimately wants to use Tanner to expose Danforth’s culpability in the murder of his wife on Tanner’s TV show and kidnaps his Tanner’s wife and son in order to do so.

The movie is dull, slow moving and needlessly convoluted.  Peckinpah’s last picture evokes a grubby, sleazy atmosphere and is full of unpleasant people you wouldn’t want to be around.  In addition, the film uses sub-standard and outdated (even for the 1980’s) echoing sound effects and slow motion, not to mention some irritating saxophone background music.  On a positive note, there is some sporadic action near the end with sawed-off shotguns, automatic weapons and crossbows being used.

This Robert Ludlum adaptation is a thorough disappointment for fans of action movies, spy movies or even Sam Peckinpah films.  It’s only worth a watch for the bizarre sight of seeing Craig T. Nelson (Coach) bust out some kung-fu moves.

John Matrix




  1. jim

    August 16, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    It’s pretty bad. Bloody Sam’s first film in five years (having gone coke crazy on Convoy) and his last (dead before he hit sixty). I like the cast (and the poster) but Ludlum’s stories lack flair.This one might have had potential if Sam had found a way to turn it into a siege drama, like Straw Dogs but it seems the producers wouldn’t let him touch the script and Sam almost always rewrote his material. The PanzerDavis producer team are reputed to be well known pigfuckers. Pity. By the time you get to the eighties there was no place in hollywood for a nihilist like Peckinpah. When you think about it, it is remarkable that an extremist wildman like Sam got to make ten shit stirring big budget studio movies with big stars and wide distribution in ten years. One a year, every year, ten years in a row. Hard to believe he got away with it for so long, Even for the seventies,Sam was pretty hardcore…Imagine what he could have done if he’d been even half sober?

    • Just Some Polack

      August 16, 2016 at 9:02 pm

      Yeah, this one just wasn’t for Sam. Sam should have ended his career with something like “Extreme Prejudice”, something about confronting manly values in contemporary day and age, not a paranoidal thriller he clearly didn’t feel. I wonder what John Frankenheimer would have done with this. I know his “Holcroft Convenant” is pretty disappointing, but mostly due to bland script.

      • jim

        August 16, 2016 at 10:43 pm

        Holcroft Covenant is bad but it’s the kind of bad I can tolerate for the castlocationsperiod because I can watch it and image the film it might have been if Frankenheimer had been more interestedsober .I can do this with a lot of fairly second rate seventies thrillers.For instance,I’m very fond of a film called The Marseilles Contract (1974) .I enjoy it for the cast, the location work in France, the whole seventies period ambience..,even though I know it isn’t really very good and some of it is downright crappy. I will watch it again and imagine how much better it would be with only a few changes. …What a way to spend your fucking time.!!

    • ColonelBobi

      August 16, 2016 at 11:38 pm

      Agree on Ludlum Jim. The Bourne books are a slow read and (rarely) not half as interesting as the movies. This is a terrible movie also.
      Nice job on the review Matrix. So glad you could make it 😉