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Flashpoint 1984 ***

When is a movie not a movie? When it’s made for home entertainment? These are the arguments that no-one was asking when HBO opened up their theatrical release account way back in 1984 with Flashpoint, an adaptation of a novel by George LaFountaine. Truth by told, Flashpoint is a cut above most tv movies and fully deserved to be seen theatrically; it’s also gained a certain post-JFK notoriety by chiming in with the themes of Oliver Stone’s celebrated conspiracy pic.

Kris Kristofferson and Treat Williams play Bobby Logan and Ernie Wyatt, two Texas border patrolmen who start to question their roles; there’s a prescient discussion where a dropped-in suit (Kurtwood Smith) suggests that if there wasn’t a migrant problem, it would be necessary to create a crisis in order to justify the US government spending on border fortification. That seems like quite an accurate prediction of 2019’s fake news and national emergency, but such allusions are not Flashpoint’s main line of enquiry. The patrolmen find a jeep buried in the sand with skeletons, a high-powered gun, and a stack of money which they trace back to early 1960’s Dallas; could they have stumbled on part of a cover-up directly related to the assassination of president John F Kennedy?

Director William Tannen’s thriller doesn’t deviate too much from conventional thriller mechanics, but there’s lots for genre fans to enjoy here, starting with another amazing Tangerine Dream score. Smith, Rip Torn and Miguel Ferrer all add gritty support turns, and the film certainly explores border politics in a thorough way.

The zeitgeist moved towards slicker, flashier, Miami Vice-type investigations, leaving Flashpoint high and dry and the box office, but it deserves to gain a little more recognition for packaging politics and thrills together effectively. If nothing else, Williams and Kristofferson are pretty much convincing as the cops, frequently stripped to the waist, tanned, sporting sunglasses, and driving nifty looking jeeps that bounce around the desert with not a drop of CGI in sight.

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