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007 vs. Norman Bates: “ffolkes” (aka “North Sea Hijack”)

January 14, 2013

North_Sea_Hijack_(1980)So, with ffolkes (or North Sea Hijack, pick your choice of title), we see Roger Moore and Anthony Perkins squaring off in an effort to escape the iron-clad typecasting in which they found themselves in 1979. Moore was up to Moonraker in his Bond oeuvre—this after playing Simon Templar in The Saint TV series. Perkins had never been able to escape the shadow of Norman Bates and found himself doomed to play naught but villains and weirdos. With ffolkes, they played boldly against cast, with Perkins playing, um…a ruthless marine hijacker who holds the UK for ransom. While Moore took the greater leap to play, er…the heroic Naval commando who saves the day. Okay, guys, you’re totally doing that wrong.

I caught this movie on the local TV station when I was a freshman in high school and recently looked it up on Netflix to make sure I hadn’t totally imagined a movie in which a Bond-era Roger Moore plays a cat-loving, needlepoint-sewing Marine commando. Once assured it actually existed I had to see how it ended. To my surprise, I found ffolkes to be a competent—if somewhat draggy—adventure movie.

So, Perkins plays Lou Kramer, a ruthless terrorist who smuggles a group of his guys onto a supply boat that services deep-sea oil platforms under the guise of being journalists. Man, everybody loves journalists. Once they’re secure, he takes over the boat and his men attack limpet mines to the support columns of “Ruth” and “Jennifer,” two such refineries. With a remote detonator in the boat’s wheelhouse, Kramer contacts the UK government and demands a hefty ransom. If they don’t pay in time, he detonates them.

400px-Ffolkes-SIG210-0

“Maybe if I started carrying guns and stopped wearing dresses…”

This is very, very bad. As the various government flunkies point out, each refinery is worth “two thousand-million dollars” (wait, is that a real number? Yep, just Googled it. I guess the Brits used to use it—along with “boot” and “bonnet” and a much more vulgar definition of “fanny”). The ecological cost will be catastrophic, and the financial hit will be staggering. Man, you’d think they’d’ve vetted those reporters a little more closely.

The British government doesn’t have any contingency for this. They can mount a raid, but are not confident they can carry it off before the mines are set off. Plus removing them is a dicey business indeed—and apparently one for which the Royal Navy is ill-equipped. Because, you know, water-stuff is a real challenge for an island nation.

12296-21906

“Look at me. I’m totally not 007.”

Ah, but they have one last (albeit unorthodox) option: Rupert Excaliber ffolkes (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), a freelance marine counter-terrorism specialist who has been training a team for just such a contingency for a sweet Lloyds of London contract to protect their maritime interests. Ffolkes assures them he can lead his team to safely eliminate the terrorists and neutralize the mines, but only if they play it his way.

Nothing is accurate about this poster.

Nothing is accurate about this poster.

Okay, ffolkes. Yeah, this guy is a trip. He’s eccentric as all hell. First off, he lives in a castle. Know who else lives in a castle? Nicolas Cage (well, he owns a couple…he probably lives in at least one of them…wouldn’t you? I mean, what else would he do with them?) Ffolkes also loves cats. Loves them a lot—I mean, we’re talking late middle-aged loveless spinster loves them. He’s also a raging misogynist due to having to wear his older sisters’ hand-me-downs until age ten. That seems a bit of an overreaction to me, but hey, I never had to wear girl clothes as a kid and don’t have a castle, so what do I know?

Did you hear that? ffolkes just creamed himself.

Did you hear that? ffolkes just creamed himself.

Ffolkes is also egotistical as hell, but he does seem good at his work. His men are fearlessly professional as one would expect from dudes who train with a madman who lobs live grenades at them as a motivational tool.

The rest of movie pretty much hits the familiar beats, with ffolkes and the government stalling, bluffing, and putting their plan in place. Meanwhile, the terrorists bump up against the unforeseen consequences of the notoriously unpredictable Atlantic Ocean and a crew that furtively plots against them. In one tense scene they try to poison the hijacker’s coffee. In another, the terrorists execute one of their own who has lost their trust just to make a point (seriously, no one thought to call the various newspapers and ask if they had any Norman Bates-looking dudes on the payroll?)

"Check me out. So not 007, here!"

“Check me out. So not 007, here!”

Well, the final raid is a bit anti-climactic, but the movie as a while still kind of works. Plus ffolkes has this really weird scene in which he refuses to believe one of the crew of the boat when she tells him that, despite her short hair, yes, she’s actually a woman (“You look like a boy, fight like a boy. You must be a boy.” Er…okay, there).

So, yeah, ffolkes. Moore does his damnedest to sell this character, and he does okay, I suppose. Problem is, ffolkes is a bit of a dick, so I’m not sure it was an effort worth making. Anyway, the movie’s worth a rainy Saturday afternoon.

2 comments

  1. Does that poster’s tag line really read “£1,000 million?”

    Was £1 billion such an inconceivable amount that they had to replace it on movie posters with that anathema unto mathematics?


    • Seriously. That confused the hell out of me, too.



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