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The Hessen Conspiracy


Rod Lott January 14th, 2011

 I love how the cover for "The Hessen Conspiracy" is designed to remind renters of "The Bourne Identity." I do not, however, love "The Hessen Conspiracy" (known overseas as "The Hessen Affair").

It's OK, though, no doubt due to a smarter-than-average script by veteran Nicholas Meyer (”The Seven-Per-Cent Solution,” “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”) and a healthy $20 million budget to make the period piece look like an actual period piece.

Set in the wake of World War II, Army Col. Jack Durant (Billy Zane) and Lt. Kathleen Nash (Lyne Renée) find tens of millions worth of Princess Sophie's jewels left behind in the basement of a German castle. Greedy American bastards they are, they take 'em, with eyes on selling them in back in the States.

When initial plans to smuggle the jewels back to New York via Gen. Patton's luggage quickly collapse, Durant sends her instead, hiding the goods in furs, with plans to meet up ASAP. She and the crown jewels cross the ocean without incident; it's on their home turf that the real problems start, complicated by the princess discovering the theft.  

Zane's Durant seems like a smart guy, but he should know not to get mix business with pleasure, which is what he does almost immediately by bedding Nash (or, as one of Durant's men slurs, "Lt. Snatch"). Meyer should know that one of the cardinal rules of screenwriting is "show, don't tell," but the story relies heavily on Zane's narration, and clichéd at that ("They say love is blind, but not in my case").

Before he became a punch line (ironically, after co-starring in what was then the biggest box-office hit of all time, "Titanic"), Zane wasn't a bad presence to have in your project (see "Dead Calm," "Twin Peaks," "The Phantom"). The guy has charisma, and certainly the old-school handsome looks to pull off a 1940 military officer with credibility.

The unknown Renée isn't much in the acting department, but she is every inch the classic screen beauty the men in the cast compare her to, from Ava Gardner to Rita Hayworth. Not to sound sexist — too late! — but she looks utterly fantastic in a string of pearls. In one memorable scene, that's her entire wardrobe. —Rod Lott



 
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