Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Local Hero (1983)

There's a few ways movie watchers can approach Local Hero.

For Star Wars diehards, director Bill Forsyth's charming 1983 comedy boasts two minor characters in bigger roles.


Denis Lawson, who appeared as Wedge in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, has a major supporting role as Gordon Urquhart.

In a small Scottish fishing village where the film is set, Urquhart wears many hats. He's the innkeeper who cooks the meals and tends bar. He's also the community's chartered accountant. Urquhart and his wife, Stella (Jennifer Black), are also doing a very good job at keeping the passion alive in their marriage.

Norman Chancer, who was a rebel officer in The Empire Strikes Back, is Moritz.


Local Hero is one of the few films made by Forsyth. His credits run about a 20-year span between 1980 and 1999. Forsyth's other credits include Comfort and Joy, Gregory's Girl and the Hollywood bomb, Being Human, with Robin Williams.

Local Hero also marks an early credit for several actors including star Peter Riegart, Jenny Seagrove (Nate and Hayes) and Peter Capaldi (Bean).

Plus, it's one of about two dozen credits Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster earned in the last decade of his working life. The star of From Here to Eternity died in 1994.


Local Hero also boasts one of the finest musical scores these ears have ever heard. The soundtrack, by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, is a treat from start to finish. His band's biggest album, Brothers In Arms, was still to come. Knopfler's solo career was still about a decade away.

Local Hero is a low-key comedy. This film is mostly subtle with a capital S.

Riegert's character, MacIntyre, gets sent to Scotland by a major oil firm based in Texas. He's thought to be Scottish because of his name. It's expected his "Scottish connections" will make the difference in sealing the deal. Watch for MacIntyre's explanation about his surname's roots.

A refinery is needed for the company's offshore rigs in the area. The firm's research department has pegged the village, and surrounding area, as the perfect location for its mega-project. MacIntyre's boss, Felix Harper (Lancaster), is a keen follower of the stars. Watch the skies, he advises his representative.

MacIntyre, a veteran dealmaker, finds himself enchanted with the community and the breath-taking scenery. Meteor showers, the Northern lights and the attractive Stella help too. MacIntyre starts to look less corporate and more local resident. He becomes reluctant to see this gorgeous part of the Earth disappear.


Most of the townspeople, however, are eager to cash in and admire the seven-digit balances in their bank accounts. Fisherman eagerly compare notes on sports cars by the water's edge. Urquhart is the ringleader eager to pick Knox Oil's pockets for as much as he can get for the community's population.

"What kind of millions do you reckon we're talking about?" he asks MacIntyre.
"We'll have to talk about that," the oilman replies.

As this post is being written, there's a big ruckus in the United States about a proposed Canadian pipeline that would transport oil through America. The environmental angle isn't played up big in Local Hero. Again, it's a subtle film. But check out the wonderful shots of the water and the night skies. Beautiful. There are suggestions cash won't bring happiness.

"Can you imagine a world without oil?" asks MacIntyre as he walks along the beach. No ink. No detergents. No automobiles. But at what price?

Cellphones, emails and Blackberries didn't exist in 1983. But MacIntyre talks about his preference to do business via technology available at the time.

"I don't know why I'm here," he says after arriving in Scotland.
"I'm more of a Telex man."

This guy loves working the phones. He even calls people in the same office who are just a few feet away.


His watch sounds whenever it's time to do business back home in Houston. He has an electric briefcase (?). MacIntyre is "plugged in" to gizmos. Status is important too. Here's a young buck who drives, he mentions more than once, a Porshe 930.

"A good car is important," he suggests.
"I used to get headaches when I drove a Chevy."

Local Hero delivers steady laughs, sometimes quite loud ones. Just be prepared for its low-key pace.

RATING: 7.5/10

FUN FACTS: John Gordon Sinclair, who starred as Gregory in Forsyth's Gregory's Girl, has a small role in Local Hero. His girlfriend is the town's sole punk rocker. Riegert's television debut was in M*A*S*H. He appeared as Col. Igor Staminsky in two episodes. Peter Capaldi appeared as George Harrison in the television movie, John and Yoko: A Love Story (1985).

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