"We're still at war, Plissken. We need him alive."

"I don't give a fuck about your war... or your president."

For Queen & Country

Confession: Classifying FOR QUEEN & COUNTRY as an action film is a bit of a stretch. Yeah, it stars Denzel Washington (RICOCHET, THE EQUALIZER, THE EQUALIZER 2) as an ex-paratrooper, and he gets in some fights and there’s an explosion and some people get shot and there’s crime and the score is by Michael Kamen (DIE HARD). It’s much more of a drama that includes these elements of action and crime movies, though, than it is an action or crime movie.

But look, he has a gun on the poster. I thought it was gonna fit into this series more than it does. Let’s not worry about it.

Washington plays Reuben James, who joins the army to move beyond an aimless life as a soccer hooligan – that’s right, he’s English in this one! – then saw some shit and earned some medals as a gunner in the Falklands. Back in the old neighborhood he tries to get a job and politely decline criminal activities with old acquaintances including high roller Colin (Bruce Payne, HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME), who claims to have a legitimate offer for him, but… come on. And the people with real jobs are indifferent to him, nobody cares that he’s a veteran, racist cops harass him and call him slurs, etc.

He reunites with a war buddy named Fish (Dorian Healy, YOUNG SOUL REBELS). Fish wears a prosthetic leg, sometimes uses a wheelchair, drinks like the animal he’s named for, is excited to see his old friend, and makes him uncomfortable by being an asshole to his wife (or girlfriend?) Debbie (Stella Gonet, The House of Eliott) in the middle of welcoming him. Fish is a total fuckup who’s always owing money, cheating on Debbie, in bed with a girlfriend when Debbie goes into labor. But, partly through Reuben’s compassion for his friend, I found more sympathy for him than expected. I like the part where the two of them get kicked out of the pub and even though Fish is the one who accidentally knocks over a table he’s also the one that’s very apologetic to the bartender.

They also have a friend named Bob who’s a cop now, who I mention because he’s played by Sean Chapman, who dubbed the voice of Frank in HELLRAISER I and II.

One day Reuben comes home to two kids breaking into his apartment. He catches one and tracks down the home of the other, Haley (Lisa O’Connor), barging in past her mother, Stacey (Amanda Redman, SEXY BEAST), who he’ll later run into at a party and start dating. And it’s kind of sweet when he becomes mom’s cool boyfriend to the girl who robbed him. But first I want to mention her room, which is furnished with A-Team bedding!

I guess I failed to get another screengrab, but it pans over and gives a better look at the TERMINATOR one sheet and Transformers wallpaper on the left there. Whether or not this movie qualifies as ’80s action, we at least know there’s one character in it who appreciates Arnold.

It’s all a slow burn of Reuben’s various problems coming to a head – not being able to get a job, losing his citizenship due to a law change, getting in trouble after he finally gives in and does one lousy security job for Colin. It’s sweet when he’s courting Stacey, and worrisome when he breaks the law, because it’s been established how much she’s against that. Their biggest fight happens when everything is going great on a date to the carnival, then he tries to win Haley a Walkman at a shooting game, and seeing how good he is at it makes her upset. Turns out her ex was a criminal who hid a shotgun under Haley’s mattress and she wants nothing to do with “men and their guns.”

That’s one thing that’s very not-American about this one – whenever someone has a gun, a big deal is made about it. It’s always treated as a dangerous thing to have around, to always be wary of. You know, like a gun. Weird. It does a really good job of building to the moment when he has finally given up on life treating him fairly and is going to go do a job for Colin, and then Stacey comes to check on him and she hugs him and feels a gun tucked into his waistband and is crushed.

It’s a very similar story to this great little Ghostface Killah song, come to think of it:

Apparently Graham McTavish (CREED) and Craig Fairbrass (AVENGEMENT) were both in this, but I’m racist against Brits and didn’t recognize them.

I guess this was the period when Denzel decided to try accents. He did CRY FREEDOM, then this, then THE MIGHTY QUINN. Now that we’re so used to him mostly playing variations on the same character it’s weird to hear that coming out of him. But I got used to it pretty quick. Of course there are still all the Denzelisms. I like this move when Colin, who has been pretending to be on the level, finally says “I have a proposition for you.” Reuben laughs and looks away, shakes his head in such a way that he does a complete 360 and looks back at him over his other shoulder and gives him an exaggerated “Bruce Payne, you hustlin son of a gun,” type of smile.

I mean, after that move obviously he was gonna get an Oscar eventually. I’m not joking. How many actors would come up with that? It’s next level.

Although I did like FOR QUEEN & COUNTRY, MIRACLE MILE is by far the best of the not-action movies released in the U.S. on May 19, 1989. It won’t be in this series, but you should check it out for sure.

As Reuben’s problems boil over, so does the neighborhood, as the fed up locals decide to fight back at the cops. One of the extras in the movie was Stephen Lawrence, a teenager who was stabbed to death in a hate crime two years later. The killers weren’t convicted until 2012, and the poor handling of the case led to attempts to reform the racism and corruption in the police force. Which is a weird way of proving that the movie knew what it was talking about.

Director Martin Stellman (writer of QUADROPHENIA) is credited as writer along with Trix Worrell, the creator of the TV show Desmond’s, who, like Reuben, came to England from St. Lucia as a child. Here in the U.S., FOR QUEEN & COUNTRY was only released on 33 screens, not making much of a splash in the shadow of other May 19th releases ROAD HOUSE, HOW I GOT INTO COLLEGE, FRIGHT NIGHT PART II and MIRACLE MILE. Although it’s not the early Denzel action vehicle I was hoping it might kinda be – there are really only a couple scuffles – it’s a compelling drama about the frustrations of the Thatcher years, and the type of shit immigrants, veterans and the working class tend to get slung at them to this day.

 

LEGACY:

I don’t think FOR QUEEN & COUNTRY made much of an impression, especially in the U.S. But that same year Washington did GLORY, which he won his first Oscar for, and in ’90 he did MO’ BETTER BLUES, beginning a long, fruitful collaboration with Spike Lee. And much later he’d do a few action movies, equalizing people and what not.

This entry was posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019 at 1:05 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

18 Responses to “For Queen & Country”

  1. Mr Bean had the same A-TEAM bedsheets. Were they popular in the UK? The show was really popular in Germany, but I can’t remember ever seeing these bedsheets in stores here.

  2. So far I have not seen the first three films in the Summer of ‘89 series. Did I even go to the movies in 1989?

  3. There used to be a comic book called QUEEN & COUNTRY which was supposed to be kind of a gritty, real life, “this ain’t James Bond” type of British spy story, and they similarly made a pretty big deal about guns in it. In one storyline, the agents aren’t allowed to be issued pistols even though they *know* assassins are after them, specifically because they’re still in England and they aren’t authorized to carry a gun inside the country. They wind up painting toy pellet guns realistic colors in the hopes of fooling the assassins long enough to either get away or smack them in the head.

    Anyway this sounds like a very different movie.

  4. Kurgan: That was one of my favorite books back when I read comics. For my money, Greg Rucka is the best writer to ever come out of the medium. Maybe he’s not as showy as the big-name legends, but everything he writes feels real and lived in to me. I really like his prose work as well. I’m a particular fan of his Atticus Kodiak series. I admire how it starts with one premise, which acquired a certain amount of baggage, which he jettisons after a few books in spectacular fashion so it can become something totally different. Not sure I’ve ever seen that before and it was really inspirational in terms of the places my own series could go.

    I’m actually pretty sure that I initially bought this movie because the title caught my eye and I wondered if it was connected to the comic. It wasn’t but I liked the concept so I bought it anyway.

    Still haven’t watched it though. Maybe I should do something about that.

  5. Is this the movie where Denzel decided to actually get drunk when his character was drunk in a scene, and he thought he was great at the time but when he sobered up he thought his acting was awful and wanted to reshoot it? It sounds like it might be. It’s one of his early 80s movies for sure.

  6. Could be. There are some scenes where he gets drunk. I didn’t think he was bad in them.

  7. Bronson Pinchot had a lot to say about what he thought of Denzel Washington’s method acting in one of the most amazing AV Club Random Roles ever.

    Bronson Pinchot

    Bronson Pinchot will forever be best known as the zany, loveable goofball immigrant from the hit ’80s sitcom Perfect Strangers, but he’s racked up an impressive résumé of character roles in film, stage, and television. A Yale graduate, Pinchot made his film debut in the 1983 cult classic Risky Business, and went on to appear in a slew of memorable ’80s films, including 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop, where he stole scenes from Eddie Murphy; 1984’s The Flamingo Kid; and Martin Scorsese’s brilliant 1985 dark comedy After Hours. But Perfect Strangers made Pinchot a household name. After the show ended, Pinchot popped up in 1993’s True Romance, 1994’s Beverly Hills Cop III, and 1996’s Courage Under Fire and The First Wives Club. In 2007, Pinchot played a snooty art critic who learns valuable life lessons in Mr. Art Critic, which has just been released on DVD.

    When asked to clarify what he said, instead of backtracking in any way …

    Bronson Pinchot Elaborates on Denzel’s Unpleasantness

    The beef that just keeps on giving.

    “What about the remark that Denzel Washington is one of the most unpleasant people you’ve met?

    I regret my choice of words there, and would like to amend my statement by saying I found his willingness to be ungenerous, unkind, knowingly hurtful both mentally and physically to myself and the crew to be the saddest misuse of stardom I have ever experienced or hope to experience.”

    Amazing.

  8. You even undersold how amazing that interview was. That Tom Cruise Story is scathing.

  9. Huh, I’ve never even heard of this which is surprising since this would have fallen right into my prime “kid hanging out in video store” days. If somebody takes that 360 move and throws some text on the end that says “My Man”, that’s a million dollar GIF. That’s how GIFs work, right?

  10. It keeps on getting funnier, Fred as evidenced by the reply.

    “Cruise’s rep responded today, telling EW, “Obviously, this is so far removed from who Tom Cruise is as a person, this must have been said in jest.””

    CAN’T EVEN DENY IT

  11. I always assumed the RISKY BUSINESS shoot took place before Xenu fully suppressed Cruise’s homosexual urges for him, so he had to resort to good old fashioned overcompensation/projection like some kind of plebe.

    Meanwhile…

    DENZEL’S REP: Yeah, I guess he is kind of a cock. But what are you gonna do? He’s Denzel. You’d probably be a cock if you were Denzel, too.

  12. Hmmm, yeah, I dunno. I don’t know whether Denzel’s arrogant any more than I know whether Tom Cruise is gay (but overall, doesn’t he at least have a rep as a nice guy?), but this Bronson fellow seems a bit full of himself. The whole “the writing was weak so I forced the director to let me make improvements” vibe puts me in mind of other dubious actorly claims like “So-and-so is a great director because he didn’t interfere with my creativity.” That’s always a red flag to me. It could be that Denzel did something that rubbed this Pinchot guy the wrong way and he’s extrapolated it to Denzel being a terrible human being who’s horrid to everyone.

  13. I just want to point out that I’m not mocking Tom Cruise for possibly being gay. In fact, if he came out of the closet, I would love him a hundred times more. That would take way more balls than it takes to strap yourself to the side of an airplane.

    As for Denzel…doesn’t he just seem like a cock? He’s a great actor but man does he seem like a cock.

  14. I always take these stories with a grain of salt, because way too often they are of the “a friend of a friend of a cousin’s friend told me” or “Mr Hollywood is a jerk because he didn’t let me take a selfie with him while he was trying to catch a flight with his wife and kids” kind, but I never heard a good story about Denzel, unless they were talking about his work ethic.

    Hey, at least Keanu seems to be the greatest guy on earth!

  15. I really can’t recall this one at all and I do remember watching some of the flicks from Denzel’s accent period back when they were still fresh on home video. Like the one with Kevin Kline where he played Steve Biko or the one where he’s the carribbean detective. Shit I even watched RICOCHET at the cinema. Here I thought that I had been all up to date on his resume all these years. But I did miss somwthing after. Leave it to Vern to provide the schooling. Wonder if this is on Netflix.

  16. There’s another Random Roles interview with Kelly Lynch where she talks about how Denzel kind of rewrote the story of VIRTUOSITY to give himself a bunch of her lines and make her character more of a damsel in distress and also eliminate a romance subplot between them, and that was pretty disappointing to hear. Dude is a great actor but seems like maybe kind of a jerk.

  17. I remember reading once that Denzel refuses to kiss white women in his movies. He said it was because he didn’t want to disappoint his black female fans. On the one hand, it’s nice that he’s standing up for women of color. On the other hand, is he really? Because it didn’t say he pushed for women of color to be cast in his movies, just that he refuses to kiss white women. Maybe he does push for women of color to be cast in more movies and they just didn’t cover that in the article I read. I don’t get a very good “supports women” vibe from him, though.

  18. Yeah in that same Kelly Lynch interview she says that he wanted to cut the romance between him and her because he felt the audience wouldn’t be ok with an interracial romance story.

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