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  In addition, the film uses sub-standard and outdated (even for the 1980’s) echoing sound effects and slow motion, not to mention some irritating saxophone background music.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