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"THE SECRET AGENT"
(1996) (Bob Hoskins, Patricia Arquette) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Moderate Heavy Mild Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None Mild None Minor
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Mild Minor Heavy Mild Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A secret agent in late nineteenth century London tries to create anarchy by terrorist means.
PLOT:
A view of London terrorism in the late 1800's, the story revolves around Verloc (BOB HOSKINS), the head of a small group of self proclaimed anarchists who want to shake things up with the status quo. Unbeknownst to members of that group that includes Tom (GERARD DEPARDIEU), or to his wife Winnie (PATRICIA ARQUETTE), Verloc is actually a "secret agent" working for the Soviet Embassy. His immediate boss, Vladimir (EDDIE IZZARD) orders him to strike "time itself" at the Greenwich Observatory (as in Greenwich Mean Time). Carrying a bomb supplied by "The Professor" (an uncredited ROBIN WILLIAMS) Verloc takes Winnie's mentally slow brother Stevie (CHRISTIAN BALE), and heads for his destination. Tragedy strikes however, as Stevie trips and sets off the bomb, accidentally killing himself. Verloc must then return and confront Winnie as well as two constables, Chief Inspector Heat (JIM BROADBENT) and the assistant commissioner (JULIAN WADHAM) who suspect him of the bombing.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Not a chance.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For some moments of violence.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • BOB HOSKINS plays a character who has kept his real identity from his wife and who foolishly lets his brother-in-law carry a bomb that ends up killing him.
  • PATRICIA ARQUETTE plays a woman who's only real care in the world is making sure that her mentally slow brother is okay.
  • ROBIN WILLIAMS plays a mad bomber who believes that all of the "stupid people" should be killed as they are the root of all that is wrong with the world. All he wants out of life is "a perfect detonator."
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    While somewhat of an interesting story (based on the Joseph Conrad novel), this movie has intriguing moments, but fails to astound today's audience like it probably did to readers nearly one hundred years ago as a literary piece. Viewers used to recent and classic spy movies will find this one rather boring as it doesn't really focus so much on the "secret agent" part as it does his relationship with his wife. And even that falls short of creating interesting drama, until the end that will come as a surprise to no one. Hoskins and Arquette are competent in their roles, but we never learn that much about them. Much more interesting are the other characters, but they all play such small parts that one wishes for more of them. That's especially true of the mad bomber "Professor," played by the uncredited Robin Williams. His performance is anarchy at its truest, and you long to know more about his character, but he's left pretty much in the shadows of the plot. If you like your movies told and shot in an old-fashioned way, you might enjoy this movie. But everyone else will find themselves shifting in their seats. We give this one just a 3 out of 10.
    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    It's highly unlikely that any children will want to see this movie, but if they do, here's the low down. The movie's about using terrorism, and in particular, bombing, to shake up the establishment. In the wake of recent terrorist bombings, it's not a great thing for impressionable minds to be exposed to. As far as other content, violence is limited to two scenes, the explosion that kills Stevie, and Winnie's subsequent stabbing of her husband. The gore factors out as a moderate; there isn't a great deal, but what's there is somewhat severe (a dismembered head is seen in a tree). Profanity is almost nonexistent and sex is relegated to some groping (and certainly nothing worse than what's seen on regular TV). If for some reason your kids want to see this one, we suggest you read through the category listings before allowing them to do so.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • A carriage driver asks Stevie if he's been drinking after he jumps from a moving carriage.
  • People drink and smoke in a small pub on several occasions. Tom drinks wine and "The Professor" drinks beer in one scene, and later Tom is seen drinking shots of liquor twice more.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • It's reported that Stevie was blown up by a bomb and that while "his head and feet were still there," they "had to scrape up the rest of him with a shovel."
  • Chief Inspector Heat's hand is bloody and he looks up to see a nearby tree soaked in blood. Later, Stevie's head is seen up in the tree.
  • Heat later inspects the body and pulls up the sheet revealing a bloody leg with big chunks taken out of it.
  • Verloc's body is very bloody and Tom slips on the nearby bloody steps and falls back to the first floor.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Obviously Verloc and his friend anarchists have both as they believe in using violence to make their points. In particular, the mad bomber "Professor" blames all of society's ills on the "stupid" and wants them exterminated.
  • Verloc tells Vladmir that recently he had sent him plans to assassinate the Grand Duke.
  • Although the film is set in the past, Winnie must serve Verloc his dinner before being allowed to eat herself.
  • Chief Inspector Heat tells Verloc to leave, "to run," instead of turning himself in to the police after the bombing.
  • Verloc tries to smooth things over with Winnie after he's just killed Stevie (by careless accident) and when she won't accept that, he blames their problems on her (specifically the police finding their address sewn into what was left of Stevie's clothes).
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • The "Professor" and Chief Inspector Heat have a showdown in a back alley. The mad bomber wants Heat to make a move so as to give him a reason to detonate his bomb. But in the end, nothing happens.
  • In flashback, we see Verloc arm the bomb and then give it to Stevie who wanders off with it. We also see Stevie as he trips and falls and then the bomb goes off.
  • As Verloc motions Winnie over to him (to fool around), she grabs a knife and slowly approaches him, knowing full well what she's going to do with it.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Explosives: Worn by "The Professor" in case he's caught by the police. At the end, he gets claustrophobic and just plain antisocial and activates the trigger while walking through a crowded street (but the shot freeze frames and the pending explosion is left for our imagination).
  • Knife: Used by Winnie to stab Verloc in the chest, killing him.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Stevie jumps from a moving carriage.
  • Phrase: "Bastard."
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • There is a mild amount of suspenseful music in the movie.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • 6 damns, and 2 uses of "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Winnie asks Verloc, "Would you like to...?" while they are in bed. She runs her hand down under the sheets and does something with it (that can't be seen -- but you get the idea of what's she's doing). He's not interested and the scene ends.
  • Winnie and Verloc are in bed together and he pulls her over and runs his hand up inside her nightgown, but no nudity or sexual movement is seen.
  • There is a quick shot of a black and white line drawing of an ad that shows a woman without a shirt and her bare breasts are seen (again, it's a drawing). Later another "old-timey" ad is briefly viewed where a woman's bare buttocks are seen.
  • Winnie and Verloc are in the mood again and she begins unbuttoning her dress. They end up on a couch where he gets almost on top of her and runs his hand up inside her dress. Someone enters their shop below and interrupts anything else from happening. No nudity or sexual movement is seen.
  • SMOKING
  • A man smokes at one of Verloc's anarchist meetings.
  • People drink and smoke in a small pub on several occasions.
  • Vladmir is seen smoking a cigar.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • A street funeral is seen.
  • Winnie's mother moves out of Verloc's house so as not to be a burden to them.
  • Winnie overhears what happened to Stevie and grieves -- over the loss of her brother, and the fact that her husband was responsible.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Terrorism.
  • There is a passing reference that Winnie committed suicide on a ferry.
  • VIOLENCE
  • A carriage driver repeatedly whips a horse to get it to move, even though he knows this bothers Stevie.
  • Verloc tells Vladmir that recently he had sent him plans to assassinate the Grand Duke.
  • Vladmir tells Verloc that he wants him to create some disturbances to shake up the status quo. He picks out the Greenwich University (home of Greenwich Mean Time) to "attack time itself."
  • A bomb blows up Stevie sending his "body parts everywhere." The explosion is seen several times, from different distances.
  • Winnie stabs Verloc in the chest with a knife, killing him.
  • Tom slips on the bloody steps and falls down them.
  • Tom reads about the mysterious suicide of a woman on the cross channel ferry (referring to Winnie).
  • The mad bomber "Professor" activates his bomb's trigger, but the scene freeze frames before the inevitable explosion on a crowded street.



  • Reviewed October 6, 1996

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