The Honorary Consul

Richard Gere

Director: John Mackenzie
Screenwriter: Christopher Hampton
Starring: Michael Caine, Richard Gere, Bob Hoskins, Elpidia Carrillo
Release details: Paramount Pictures, UK 1983, 99mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: Political drama (without the drama)
Rating: 0 out of 10

Call off the dogs, the hunt is over. If you thought The Island was bad, then be prepared to meet a new low in the Caine career. But The Island was based on an absolutely godawful nonsense of an idea. I mean, killer 17th century pirates? Really!

This, however, is one of those "serious" movie projects that belongs in the same category as Breakfast of Champions or Bonfire of the Vanities (both of which, curiously, star Bruce Willis): great source novel, complete dog of a film. Poor Graham Greene seems to have been particularly cursed with tortuous adaptations of his work.

Richard Gere was in the early peak of his career, coming off the success of American Gigolo, when he chose this as his next big project. No doubt he wanted to be seen as a serious actor and not a sex object. Fair enough, he's a very serious guy. But he could have shown more discretion in his choice of project, perhaps picking something which was a little more of a realistic leap for him. Instead, he is horrendously miscast as Eduardo Plarr, the local doctor in the Argentinian town of Corrientes. Eduardo's supposed to be the public school-educated son of a wealthy Englishman; for Richard, this just means enunciating carefully and quietly, so quietly you can hardly hear him and so slowly that you lose the will to live before he completes a sentence.

The basic plot is this: Eduardo moves into Corrientes, meets the honorary British Consul, Charlie Fortnum (Caine), an incorrigable drunk. Fortnum and the local chief of police, Colonel Perez (Hoskins), introduce him to the realities of life in the border town, which is under military occupation due to the high incidence of Paraguayan terrorism in the area. Eduardo starts having a totally passionless affair with Fortnum's 19 year old ex-prostitute wife (Carrillo, who spends most of her screen time pouting and half-naked) and gets involved with terrorists who mistakenly kidnap Charlie instead of the American Ambassador.

Michael's acting his socks off here, leaving Charlie as the only sympathetic character on view, and he's the only one who seems to be treating the Graham Greene source material with the respect it deserves. The usually reliable Hoskins has a worse Spanish accent than Gere's English one. In fact, it's so bad, it's almost racially offensive. The characters are one-dimensional and Mackenzie directs at a snail's pace, which adds to the general feeling that nothing interesting is happening.

The film was renamed Beyond the Limit for release in the US as, clearly, the distributors felt that American audiences weren't smart enough to cope with working out what an honorary consul is. Beyond the Limit is an utterly meaningless title which does little to illuminate audiences (US or otherwise) as to the point of the film. But then, I'm assuming that there is actually a point to the film at all and I have no evidence to back this assumption.

It all ends badly, but you won't care by then. In fact, you'll find it hard to care about anything because the sheer tedium will have sucked every last ounce of energy from your body.


For more information on Graham Greene, try Greeneland's page on the source novel.

The Gere Foundation awards grants to humanitarian organizations supporting victims of war and natural disasters, providing HIV/AIDS care and research and addressing human rights violations occurring around the world

There's a surprising lack of Richard Gere fansites out there. NightMare's site is recommended as the most thorough, but it hasn't been updated since 2002.