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The Kidnapping of the President

1980, Starring William Shatner, Hal Holbrook, Van Johnson, Ava Gardner, Maury Chaykin. Directed by George Mendeluk

Toronto will be easy" "That's what they said about Dallas!" Can Canadian golden boy William Shatner Protect President Hal Holbrook from Mexican Marxist Terrorists in Toronto? Sure, but he's going to have to overact the hell out of his part

James Tiberius Kirk stars in this tepid thriller as Jerry O'Connor, the head of the Secret Service who springs into action when Assanti, a dangerous Mexican revolutionary threatens to ruin the President's diplomatic visit to Toronto.

Assanti lays out his master plan to Canadian film mainstay Maury Chaykin and a woman whose sister was killed helping Assanti in Mexico: he hopes to imprison the President of the United States in a Brinks Bank truck. Chaykin has wired the entire inside of the truck with plastic explosives and sensors to set them off. There are noise sensors for anyone trying to drill through the truck, heat sensors for anyone trying to use heat cutting tools, and finally motion detectors which prevent the truck from being moved.

As our three deadly assassins drive towards Toronto, the truck begins to overheat, so they pull into a gas station. Some cops nearby ask if they can help, and one sees some extra wires and starts asking more questions. Assanti stabs one cop, and Maury shoots another, but ends up getting shot himself. The station attendant runs off, but the girl shoots him in the back as well. As they drive away, Assanti decides to shoot a gas pump, sending the entire station up in flames. At this point I would call the mission a failure and go to Tim Horton's for a coffee, but then again I'm not a Mexican terrorist.

So now it's just Assanti and his new girlfriend, driving to the Eaton Centre in their Brinks truck. Meanwhile the President is making his way along the QEW highway, to his ceremony at Nathan Phillips Square in front of Toronto City Hall. They bluff through security by claiming they are "delivering money" to the nearby Eaton Centre. Assanti makes his way to Nathan Phillips Square, while his girlfriend waits in the idling truck.

As the President makes his way through the crowd, Assanti quickly grabs his arm and snaps a handcuff on, chaining them together. Assanti then rips off his trench coat revealing several sticks of dynamite strapped to his body. He kidnaps the President, fulfilling the movie's title, and puts him in the rigged truck. Then he allows himself to be taken into City Hall, where he explains that he has to make contact with his partner every half hour or else she will use her remote to blow up the truck. He then demands $100 million in diamonds, and two transport planes.

While all this is happening, Jerry O'Connor has managed to get a two-way microphone through the floor of the van using the sophisticated technology of the Commodore PET computer. Now he can speak with the President, but that doesn't mean much after the CIA undermines O'Connor by arresting Assanti's special lady who starts the timing sequence on the explosives.

Back in City Hall, Shatner gets so annoyed he starts slapping Assanti and even says "fuck" a few times! The diamonds and the planes are quickly collected together, and it looks like Assanti has won. Before he takes off though, O'Connor manages to convince the girl that Assanti killed her sister (which he did), and makes her shoot Assanti. She collapses in tears, but O'Connor has no time for women and glory, since the President is still in the rigged bank truck. He runs off to save the President, and perhaps more importantly, his own job.

This could have been an interesting film, but it loads up on seemingly unrelated political intrigue about the Vice President's secret agenda and the clash between the CIA and the Secret Service. Even then, the editing and the direction negate any sort of tension the movie has. For one thing, the counter on the bomb counts up from 9:00 to 12:00. What is that about? Everyone knows bombs count down, and you don't want your audience doing math to figure out how much time is left.

One interesting aspect of the film is the shots of Toronto, and the way the movie actually utilizes the city as part of the logical kidnapping plan through real locations. Getting to Nathan Phillips Square via the back of the Eaton Centre makes sense to anyone who has actually been there.

The weirdest aspect of this film is it's view of Canadians. First of all, everybody is wearing multi-coloured ski-jackets and jeans. There's no businessmen (at the corner of Bay and Queen?) or teenagers, just a bunch of people that looked like they just came from the set of King of Kensington. Secondly, at Nathan Phillips Square, there is a mob to meet the President. Once he is kidnapped, there is a huge vigil outside-- people with candles, crying and the like. Now I don't want to sound inconsiderate, but there's just no way Toronto would respond with an outpouring of compassion like that.

Kidnapping of the President is not as bad as some Canuxploitation films, but it never rises above mediocre. Canadian rocker Nash the Slash does his first soundtrack for the film, and fans of William Shatner should enjoy this, but that tells you a lot about the picture right there doesn't it?

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