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Outland Review

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A police marshal for a mining colony on Jupiter’s moon Io, refuses to stand back when miners start dropping dead from a deadly narcotic, designed to make them more productive. With few allies, he hunts down the perpetrators.

★★★★

Purposely a direct remake of the classic Gary Cooper Western High Noon in space, Peter Hyams, a journeyman’s journeyman, does a decent job in creating a tense tough-guy thriller in a sci-fi environment. The effects have dated, dimming some of the icy atmosphere, but Connery gives one of most distinct performances as the rugged, moralistic marshal O’Niel, shorn of Bond’s slick exterior he’s a terse ‘70s-style reworking of Gary Cooper’s noble warrior.

In truth, that applies to the movie as a whole, alongside Alien, this is the blue-collar grit and muscle sci-fi that harkens to the call of The French Connection more than Star Wars. While no Ridley Scott, Hyams is good at the style (he proved it again with 2010), with great use of Steadicam to intensify chase scenes down tight corridors, and going keeping as close to genuine physics as he can. Particularly memorable is a suicidal miner projecting himself into the vacuum of space and graphically exploding. Francis Sternhagen is no Grace Kelly but makes a good show as the doctor who proves his only ally, while Peter Boyle does a great shifty turn as the head of the bad corporation about to face the wrath of the righteous man. Good stuff.

This gritty sci-fi is undeservedly neglected and underrated.