Revisiting The Presidio (1988)

Plot: A San Francisco civilian police detective is forced to work on a series of murders with his former enemy commanding officer while dating his daughter.

Peter Hyams is one of the great action movie directors with a filmography that includes Timecop, Sudden Death, End of Days, Narrow Margin and many more under his belt. One of my personal favourites of his is The Presidio starring Sean Connery, Mark Harmon and Meg Ryan.

Watching it now The Presidio almost feels like Harmon’s audition for Gibbs on NCIS as his character Jay Austin is investigating the murder of a military officer and it almost feels like NCIS could be a spin-off (even if this doesn’t involve the Navy).

This is at its core a police procedural with two mismatched men (Connery & Harmon) forced to work together to find out who murdered a soldier called Patti Jean Lynch (Jenette Goldstein).

Connery plays Lt. Col. Alan Caldwell who is never less than magnetic any time he is on screen; Caldwell and Austin don’t like each other due to an event that happened a couple of years earlier when Austin beat up a suspect for “resisting arrest”. There is always this undercurrent of tension between the two but you know how it will go as there is a greater mystery afoot that needs to be solved.

The Presidio wastes no time in getting going with a nighttime car chase through an army base leading onto the streets of San Francisco. The action is shot beautifully with everything clearly visible and some amazing stunt work.

My favourite scene has to be the bar fight with Connery taking out some redneck with only his thumb. It’s the kind of scene you would only see in movies but it’s incredibly satisfying. In my 41 years on Earth I have never actually seen a bar fight like this; do they actually happen? Anyone have any cool stories?

There is no shortage of action in this movie and as one of my friends stated it has arguably one of the all-time great footchases midway through the movie. It looks like Harmon did a lot of his own stunts too and the sequence with him running over the cars still looks fantastic.

He was believable in this role and is slightly more interesting than Gibbs; he is smooth talking and moves almost scarily fast with Meg Ryan’s Donna Caldwell (Connery’s daughter) but he has a short fuse and finds trouble regularly.

The quickfire dialogue makes all the characters engaging but what I love is that they aren’t all that likable; they are very flawed. Donna blames her dad for being so closed off emotionally and sees him as responsible for her mother’s suicide years earlier. This prevents her from getting too close with Austin who also has his own hang ups.

He isn’t intimidated by Connery’s Alan Caldwell and it’s his relationship with Donna that might just bring them all together.

Keep your eyes open for Patrick Kilpatrick who shows up as one of the villains (shocker).

I had an idea where the story was going but it had a few twists I didn’t see coming and there is enough slick action to keep viewers engaged.

Even if it’s from 1988 The Presidio still holds up today as thrilling actioner with intriguing characters, sharp dialogue and a first rate cast. The Presidio is on Amazon Prime now so I recommend checking it out if you haven’t seen it before.