Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Films of Michael Caine #79: Quicksand

Cast: Michael Keaton (Martin Raikes), Michael Caine (Jake Mallows), Judith Godreche (Lela Forin), Rade Serbedzija (Oleg Butraskaya), Matthew Marsh (Michael Cote), Xander Berkeley (Joey Patterson), Kathleen Wilhoite (Beth Ann), Rachel Perjani (Rachel), Elina Lowensohn (Vannessa), Clare Thomas (Emma), Hermione Norris (Sarah), William Beck (Nicoli).
Crew: John Mackenzie (director), Jim Reeve (producer), Timothy Prager (writer), Anthony Marinelli (music), Walter McGill (cinematography), Graham Walker (editor), Jon Bunker (production designer).

Synopsis: The Russian Mafia is smuggling drugs and sex slaves into the French port of Nice, aided by corrupt cops. But crime boss Oleg Butraskaya decides to stop making payments to the local chief of police, Pillon. Oleg’s henchman Nicoli murders two cops at the port. In retaliation, Pillon has Oleg’s lover killed. In New York, Martin Raikes runs the compliance department of City and Trust Bank. His job is detecting attempts to launder illegally earned money. His young daughter Emma lives in England. Raikes discovers a French film company called Groupe Lumiere has transferred an abnormal payment of $6 million. The compliance officer flies to Nice to investigate. Group Lumiere’s beautiful executive Lela Forin shows Raikes around a film studio, where the company is making a film called Quicksand. The banker meets ageing action movie star Jake Mallows, who stars in the picture. When Raikes asks to see the company accounts, Nicoli tries unsuccessfully to buy him off.

Next morning Oleg has Pillon assassinated and frames Raikes for the murder. The banker flees when he sees Nicoli among the police. Raikes finds Lela and saves her from a bomb planted by Nicoli. Lela admits she sent the abnormal payment, hoping the police would investigate. The movie wasn’t real, just a way of laundering illegal money. Raikes discovers Oleg’s men are using the studio to film rapes for internet porn sites. The banker tries to surrender to police inspector Cote, but the cop is working for the Russian Mafia. Oleg has Raikes’ daughter Emma abducted and brought to Nice. The gangster uses Jake to film a ransom demand for Raikes, offering to swap Emma for Lela. Raikes confronts Mallows and tells him the truth about the fake film. Oleg tricked the actor, using Jake’s gambling debts to control him. Raikes, Mallows and Lela trick Oleg into surrendering Emma. The police arrive. Cote murders Oleg and Nicoli, unaware his actions are being broadcast on the internet. Afterwards Jake and Lela launch their own film company and Raikes returns to New York, his name cleared…


Desmond Lowden’s novel Boudapesti 3 was first published in 1979. Nearly twenty years later British film director John Mackenzie received a script based on the thriller. ‘It was dreadful,’ Mackenzie recalled during an exclusive interview for this book. ‘I said no and didn’t hear anything back. A year later producer Geoff Reeve sent me a revised version by Timothy Prager. I knew the writer rather well. I read it and it was like a different film, with wit and all sorts of things in it. So I said I’ll do it and that’s how it started.’

The $10 million project was funded from several different countries. Shooting began in December 2000 and ran for eight weeks, mostly on location in the South of France with some sequences lensed in New York. American actor Michael Keaton was hired to play banker Martin Raikes while Caine was cast as ageing film star Jake Mallows. It was Caine’s fifth collaboration with Reeve, following on from Half Moon Street, The Whistle Blower (both 1986), Shadow Run (1998) and Shiner (2000). A sequence from Shadow Run was used in Quicksand as footage from the film within a film.

‘They were very good in it, Caine and Keaton,’ Mackenzie recalled. ‘They make quite a nice contrast with each other. Keaton’s the lead. Michael plays a down and out star, on the skids to obscurity – all the things he actually isn’t. He eats the part up, he’s great. They are great together and I think it’ll be quite an interesting movie.’ Once Caine’s part was concluded, he flew to Vietnam to begin work on The Quiet American (2002).

Quicksand’s troubles began once shooting was completed, according to Mackenzie. ‘The big problem was the producers fell out. The money came from ten different sources. I’ve never known a film with so many associate or executive producers. When the film was finished, they all fought amongst each other. They kept on wanting to have other versions. The film got sort of raped several times. Lots of vicious things happened. I said my name had to come off. Geoff Reeve, the guy who’d started the whole thing, was trying to satisfy all these people. His son, Jim Reeve, took over.’

In July 2002 Variety announced Quicksand would get its world premiere at the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily. Mackenzie was invited but refused to go. ‘That was when I was saying my name wouldn’t be on it. They had redubbed the film and recut it, rather badly. It may have been shown, I don’t know. I doubt it. Eventually, after a year and a half, the film came back to me. I reinstated some of it, not all of it and we came to an agreement on it. But it’s been a scarring experience. It was crucified by the amount and disparity of people who put money into it. They’ve sold it to Europe. I’ve not heard of any deal done in America or Britain. It’d be a pity if it just got dumped on video.’

Quicksand was released on DVD in Scandinavia late in 2002. The film was given an R rating for America by the MPAA in 2003, and appeared on Region 1 DVD the following year. It finally got a UK release this year on Region 2 DVD.

Verdict: Quicksand is a taut, efficient thriller. The concept of a good man being falsely accused of a crime is nothing new, but the tension is steadily increased through the film’s 90 minutes. The only let-down is a trick used to dupe the Russian Mafia, who presumably have never seen The Sting (1973). Keaton acquits himself well and the international cast all give strong performances. Caine’s role is little more than a cameo for much of the film, but he comes into his own as an ageing cinema icon in the finale. Considered on its own merits, this is an unremarkable thriller at best.

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