Why am I remembering this Canadian-made political thriller from Crown International Pictures as, not a theatrically-run film, but as a U.S. network TV movie? Yeah, I remember watching this William Shatner and Hal Holbrook effort on HBO at one point. . . . Perhaps it’s because director George Mardeluk worked primarily in television throughout the ’80s and ’90s on several TV series, along with LOTS of TV movies into the mid-2000s. He made his feature film debut with the great Richard Crenna (The Case of the Hillside Strangler) in the neo-noir crime thriller Stone Cold Dead (1980) — a film that I also don’t recall being in theaters, but enjoying immensely on HBO.
Well, one thing is for sure: Crown International upped their game with this, Mardeluk’s second thriller, to get their studio out of the exploitation gutter (with far like Superchick, also reviewed this month) by acquiring the rights to Charles Templeton’s 1977 international best-seller of the same name; not a bad feat for a first-time novelist.
President Adam Scott (Hal Holbrook) is one of those leaders who tosses common sense out the window when it jeopardizes his image in the political arena. So when Secret Service agent Jerry O’ Connor (William Shatner) warns Scott of a potential threat and that he should cancel his state visit to Canada — Scott scorns his protective attache and takes the trip anyway — and is subsequently abducted by terrorists for ransom.
Of course, as is the case with such recent political action-thrillers as the battling destroy-the-Whitehouse features of White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen, we have Ethan Richards (Van Johnson), Scott’s politically ambitious Vice President ready to take his seat of the most powerful office in the world. Meanwhile, O’Conner races against the clock to rescue the President from a booby-trapped armored truck. Ava Gardner practically copies her role as Charlton Heston’s overbearing, bitchy wife from Earthquake . . . as Van Johnson’s overbearing, bitchy Second Lady of the United States. And there’s lots of Canadian actors afoot that you’ll recognize, most notably the always welcomed Maury Chaykin (Def Con 4, WarGames) as the world’s most ill-organized terrorist.
I never read the novel, but critics say the book is better and the movie is slow. Whatever, I liked this movie back in the day and enjoyed revisiting it these years later. In fact, we discussed George Mardeluk’s career and my enjoyment of his first two movies in our review of one of his latest films, Ants on a Plane (2019). For you Lifetime damsel-in-distress fans, his last directed film was The Wrong Babysitter (2017), which currently plays on Netflix.
Look, The Kidnapping of the President is a Crown International flick, after all, so don’t expect Clint Eastwood’s fantastic In the Line of Fire (1993) — and I name drop that flick because, well, take a look at the clip below. Does that guy in the cap with the explosives on his chest look a bit like John Malkovich’s Mitch Leary from that film?