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3.5 out of 5 stars
Bullet to Beijing (Special Edition) (1995)
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
In which a British agent is forcibly retired, comes out of retirement, nearly sleeps with a young Russian agent, does some espionage on a train, meets Burt Kwouk, and saves the world.
The first three Harry Palmer films were very much products of their times in that they were made during the 'cold war' and had much of their action set in Swinging London. They also benefitted from a young Michael Caine establishing himself as a screen star. The new films had to change approach. London now seems to be full of nothing but traffic, the cold war is supposedly over, and Caine's age meant that it became incongruous to have him in exactly the same role he played thirty years earlier.
This situation has been tackled before. Callan, James Bond, and Smiley have all come out of retirement, Glasnost has been tackled well in the later James Bonds, and the emphasis on London is seldom seen these days in British films.
So to some extent Harry Palmer's comeback is a cross between Never Say Never Again and GoldenEye and it all seems a bit familiar. Nevertheless Caine's watchability and charm keep the film moving and the rather slow opening soon gives way to classy chases, set pieces, and so on, all laced with the cynicism and intelligence that characterised the first three movies. The score by Rick Wakeman is good, being based on traditional Russian music, but in places it's inappropriate and undermines the action.
It's a bit of a shame these films weren't made in the 1970s or 1980s as the transition would have been easier, but all in all, it's good to see him back.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2002
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
A believable glimpse into the self-serving British beauracracy and the modern Russia.
Caine is Caine - superb. The younger Connery is obviously going places.
An informative romp through Russia with subtle nuances and ultimate treachery in store.
Well worth the few pennies for an excellent product.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2001
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
I was very excited when I first read that Michael Caine would return to the role of Harry Palmer in not just one, but two made-for-cable-TV films for Showtime networks. But after the announcement was made it was a few years before they actually aired.
I was wary when I learned that one of the producers was Harry Alan Towers. This is the man who made three versions of Agatha Christie's TEN LITTLE INDIANS, each progressively worse than the last. Peter Welbeck, who scripted two of those versions, wrote the screenplay for BULLET TO BEIJING.
When the two movies, BULLET and MIDNIGHT IN ST. PETERSBURG, finally aired I was disappointed. Caine looks good, but he doesn't have the same verve. Some characters just don't age well. Palmer was always a bit of a dupe in the earlier films (IPCRESS FILE, FUNERAL BERLIN, and BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN), but here he seems particularly dull-witted. It looks like the majority of the budget went to Caine and location shooting, because it didn't go for editing or photography. And the score by Rick Wakeman almost sinks the project.
Casting is nice, but even though the two films were directed by different men, it is obvious they were filmed at the same time, with many of the same supporting players, including the less than impressive Jason Connery. Fans of the Len Deighton novels know that Harry Palmer is not the name of the character in the books (his name is never revealed), and that the name Harry Palmer was an invention of the filmmakers (including Harry Saltzman who co-produced the early Bond films). In BULLET TO BEIJING, the title reads Len Deighton's BULLET TO BEIJING - which is a misnomer because the story is based on nothing by Deighton, and it is doubtful he was ever involved in any way, shape or form.
IPCRESS FILE is on tape and DVD, and FUNERAL IN BERLIN will be availble on DVD in August. And I am still waiting for MGM/UA to wise up and release BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN, which to my knowledge has never been out on home video. With the first two theatrical releases availanle, why settle for bargain basement, imitation Palmer?
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
thoroughly enjoyable. Caine is the aged Palmer in the spirit of Len Deighton's working class spy. Cliche, yes! but who would want otherwise.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 31, 2014
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I was a big fan of the three Harry Palmer movies in the 1960's and I was delighted to find this adventure to catch up with this great film character again. It's worth checking out
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2001
Format: DVD
For those looking for what I thought of this film, I earlier wrote a review of the VHS edition, which was released by Paramount and runs 105 minutes. This DVD version is 122 minutes and my copy says it is from Lions Gate, not Front Row.
I don't particularly like this film, nor this version of the Harry Palmer character (incidently, even though it suggests otherwise, this has nothing to do with anything written by Len Deighton). I know it's a bit like that old joke where someone complains about how terrible food in a restauramt is, and then also complains that the portions are too small. But if you like this film, or are a Michael Caine completist, I thought it my duty to share the information about the additional footage.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
British actor Michael Caine made several sequence of this espionage movies. They are really good since they are made with suspence, intellectually challenge, and without the typical Hollywood jargon. The scenes are all in Europe with a small cast. Not bad for a weekend movie!
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
This movie is little more than a parody of the espionage genre. Ridiculous and extremely confusing plot, stereotypical characters, pitiful screenplay, poorly filmed ... I could go on and on but what would be the use? An example of the pathetic story: Michael Caine and Jason Connery are tossed off a train in the middle of Siberia. After five minutes of walking along the train track they suddenly find themselves in an airport outside a teeming city, where they get the last two seats on an airplane. Then, the airplane runs out of gas and serenely lands in a cow pasture where all the passengers grumpily exit the plane. This was just one of a series of scenes that were not only mindless but unexciting.
This movie was so bad it defies belief! Spend your money elsewhere!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Michael Caine filmed this made for TV movie in the mid 90's, back to back with Midnight in St. Petersburg. Harry Palmer has been unceremoniously ousted from the Secret Service.. but finds a private contract to recover a stolen biological agent, for a mysterious but powerfully connected Russian, played by Michael Gambon. The journey to find this bio-agent and understand who is doing what to who and why, takes us on the titular train from Russia to Beijing. The story is frankly hard to swallow on many levels, and is woefully disappointing if you come expecting the flair of the The Ipcress File [Blu-ray] or Funeral In Berlin. In the absence of Len Deighton's involvement, the screenwriter has tried to emulate the intricacies of a convoluted spy thriller with double crosses and twists.. and only succeeded in tying himself up in knots and ultimately losing all credibility. Although there are plenty of action scenes dispersed throughout the movie, there is nothing outstanding, merely workmanlike, and it plays more like a pilot to a TV series than a standalone movie. As for the hero, for a seasoned spy, Palmer seems to do little more than get carried along by events and go around asking old friends and near strangers what they know, when he needs a lead. Jason Connery feels like stunt casting designed to remind you of his dad, but he betrays no emotion.. I've seen garden shrubs that made more compulsive viewing.. and Mia Sara also does little to further her career. It's only Michael Caine that frankly makes this at all worth watching - that and the genuine locations. There's an oddly out of place music score by Rick Wakeman of all people.
There's a pleasure to be had in seeing Caine play Palmer again.. it's something about nostalgia. Watching this is sort of like going back and rewatching some of your favourite 70's or 80's tv shows.. you know they're really not very good, but it reminds you about enjoying them, once.. and it puts a smile on your face. Here, we get to see Caine in action in a story which while not perfect, will pass some time for you if you are in the mood for undemanding entertainment. By the end of it though, when you hear the hints that the next one is on its way, you'll probably be inclined like me to think enough is enough.. goodwill only goes so far, in covering up wooden acting and dodgy production values.
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on April 15, 2015
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Expensive and not among the best but still enjoyable enough.
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