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You know, if you're the guy you're supposed to be, you wouldn't stick around. That's why they sent you here.

Outland 
(1981) 

Sean Connery does High Noon in space (on Io, anyway) by way of post-Alien design and visuals. Peter Hyams isn't quite a journeyman director (until the last couple of decades he regularly directed his own screenplays, and he usually doubles as cinematographer) but he's too derivative and safe a pair of hands to approach any kind of auteur status.

His peak run is probably the Capricorn One/Outland/2010 sci-fi trilogy. Hyams mimics the look of Alien very effectively (he’s open about this on the Blu-ray commentary), such that the film feels like a halfway house on the way to Blade Runner (you'd swear the bar, complete with podiums of semi-nude dancers, is an outtake). Jerry Goldsmith's score frequently makes use of eerie Alien-esque cues and the tagline "Even in space, the ultimate enemy is man" is a pretty shameless attempt to sell it to that audience (there's even a final log sign-off, except that it's altogether cheesy in this case). The expansion of the used future, bored-with-space blue-collar crew into this film's mining colony works rather well; Connery's kid has never even seen Earth, and the staff live in drudgery only alleviated by hookers and drugs.

Where Hyams fails is in character and detail, so he's lucky to have Sean to take up the slack. We never really get to know the opposition to Connery's resolute Marshall. Peter Boyle's character is loyal to what he can graft at the expense of the workers and also represents the profit-first face of the company (the same one that featured in Capricorn One), but there isn't enough of him to effectively counterpoint Connery. The drug that is sending crew crazy is given almost perfunctory attention (having Steven Berkoff go crazy on it is astute casting, though). And even in terms of the High Noon - waiting for the assassins to arrive - aspect, the only character Connery really interacts with is Frances Sternhagen's feisty doctor (she's excellent, even if her dialogues is occasionally a bit ripe). Jame Sikking makes a good showing as one of Connery's men and there's a significant role for a very young Clark Peters (Lester in The Wire).

 So what you're left with is a serviceable imitation of better movies (it even has exploding heads a la Scanners) that comes into its own in one area; the Scotsman. He's on great form, taking no shit and proving that Shatner isn't the only actor whose toupee doesn’t detach in space.

***1/2



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