The Rescue (1988)

26 Mar


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

If a teenager can hack into the defense network system (“WarGames”), build his own atomic bomb (“The Manhattan Project”), and fly a jet into enemy territory to save his father (“Iron Eagle”), then why shouldn’t four teenagers and a younger kid be able to sneak into North Korea and save their Navy SEAL fathers from a Korean prison, while making little attempt to disguise themselves?

That’s the central story element of “The Rescue,” a gutsy, well-shot movie that has high spirits and a likable if unspectacular young cast. The whole idea of the movie may be preposterous and that’s most likely the word that almost every other film critic used in their negative reviews of this film. But strangely, I got into the movie. So what if it’s preposterous? So what if (spoiler) everything works out for these kids? It’s a teenage adventure movie—leave it at that and enjoy.

Four Navy SEALs stationed in South Korea are sent on a mission to destroy a disabled U.S. submarine in enemy North Korean waters. They succeed, but are captured and sent to a North Korean prison. A month passes and the imprisoned SEALs are scheduled for execution.

Teenagers Shawn Howard (Ned Vaughn) and Adrian Phillips (Christina Harnos) each have a father that is a prisoner. They use a friend’s homemade listening device to eavesdrop on a discussion of a rescue mission to go in and get the men back. But they are shocked to know that the plug has been pulled on the plan. They and the friend—Max Rothman (Marc Price, TV’s “Family Ties”), the son of the SEAL head—tell the news to rebel J.J. (Kevin Dillon), another son of a captured SEAL. J.J. comes up with the idea of stealing the government rescue plan and taking matters into their own hands. They’ll get a boat, escape the border patrol, find the mission operative, and get their fathers back. They have an unexpected ally—Shawn’s ten-year-old brother Bobby (Ian Giatti), who followed them to help.

“The Rescue” could be made as a silly kids’ movie, but it’s not dumb and it’s not boring either. A lot of that has to do with the masterful direction by Ferdinand Fairfax, who shoots with a great visual style. The climax is surprisingly well-handled, despite the preposterousness of the situation. But I felt involved—at one point, when the plane they use to escape in loses both engines and comes close to a nose dive, I even held on to my own stomach. That’s really saying something about the look of the film.

The young actors are fine and likable—even Marc Price, who was so obnoxious as the neighbor Skippy in “Family Ties,” is likable. Kevin Dillon (seen in “Platoon” and “The Blob”) is a convincing rebellious hero, Ian Giatti has a special enthusiasm that comes with the age, and Christina Harnos is spunky and has some karate moves to use on some (get this) Korean gangsters. The only problem is that their characters aren’t fully developed and neither one is given a chance to stand out.

So what if all of these kids have it easy with one too many close calls? It’s entertaining as a PG fantasy—you know nothing bad will happen to these kids, but let the direction by Ferdinand Fairfax guide you. “The Rescue” isn’t a great movie, but I liked it enough to recommend it. It’s a high-spirited teenage adventure film—deal with it.

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