The Package Blu-ray Review: Not so Much a Bad Movie as a Disappointing One

When I was in college, I realized that when you are with a particular group of friends and having a great conversation full of laughs, there are certain times when a joke gets set up that the punch line doesn’t matter. Like the vibe is so good, your friends are primed to laugh, and the setup is just so perfect that you could say anything for a punch line and everybody would launch into hysterics. Sometimes, I think movies are like that. Sometimes the direction or acting or the filmmaking is so good that you just don’t care if there are plot holes, or if parts of the story don’t make sense. If a film works for me, I’m willing to overlook story problems. The opposite is also true, if a movie isn’t working for me then I tend to focus on the little problems.

So it was with The Package. Fairly early in the film, I realized it just wasn’t working for me. Something, and the best way to describe that something would be it felt very sloppily made, wasn’t clicking, and from that moment on I found myself nitpicking it to death.


In the very first scene, there is a big meeting between Russian and American diplomats working out a treaty for nuclear disarmament. There is an enormous amount of security including Gene Hackman’s Army Sergent and his troops. Security is so tight infrared cameras pick up a couple of backpackers jogging through the park. Yet moments later, a car is blown up, Uzis are used to kill some Army men, and the only people who show up are Hackman’s crew. Later in the film, Hackman’s character is bushwhacked in an airport bathroom. A military prisoner escapes. Yet no one calls the cops or military police.

Over and over again there were little inconsistencies that drove me crazy. Things that wouldn’t have bothered me at all had the film been any good. After watching the film, I was reading reviews of it on Letterboxd and to my surprise, I found that most of my friends rather dug the film. Then I looked at reviews for The Fugitive, another film by the same director, and I found that someone was nitpicking it to death. Now that’s a film I love, and while I admit there are some plot problems, I’ve never cared one bit.

Alright, so Hackman plays Sgt. Johnny Gallagher. After he botches the mission in Berlin, he is assigned to escort Walter Henke (Tommy Lee Jones) to America to await a court martial. He’s the guy who escapes from the bathroom. Things get weird when Gallagher discovers that the man he escorted is not the real Walter Henke. But why would a man pretend to be an American military prisoner set to be court-martialed?

The answer is another one of little details that makes no logical sense when you stop to think about it. The movie tries not to let you think about it, sweeping Gallagher deeper and deeper into a conspiracy that ultimately leads to an assassination attempt on the President of the United States.

While watching this film, I kept thinking about The Fugitive. They say a lot of that movie was improvised, especially Tommy Lee Jones’s part. That’s probably the reason some of the plot doesn’t hold up that well under scrutiny, but it is also why the film is so good. Jones is electric in that film. I can’t help but wonder if The Package was filmed in a similar way. That could explain the sloppiness. Maybe they weren’t able to get the performances needed to make that kind of filmmaking work. Or maybe the script was too reliant on the plot to allow for good improvisation. I don’t know I’m just speculating. But whatever magic X Factor was in The Fugitive is completely missing here.

The performances, actually, are good. Hackman has been so consistently good for so long it is easy to take him for granted. The plot moves its pieces along so quickly, and he’s given so few character beats, that he doesn’t have much to do, but he certainly makes the most of it. Jones is given even less to do and has very little screen time, but he’s also great. So much so that when he was not on screen I missed him. His character is interesting and I wish they’d spent more time with him and given him more motivation.

It isn’t so much a bad movie as a disappointing one. I really did have The Fugitive too much on the brain and few films can live up to that one. But looking at my Letterboxd friends it seems quite a few people have liked this film. If you can overlook the various plot problems and general sloppiness, you might just have a good time. I wish I did.

Extras on this new Kino Lorber release include an audio commentary with director Andrew Davis and actress Joanna Cassidy, an interview with Cassidy, an intro by the director, TV spots, and trailers.

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Mat Brewster

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