Film review: Eve of Destruction

Published: Friday, Jan. 25 1991 12:00 a.m. MST

Gregory Hines made a bid for buddy-action stardom a few years back when he co-starred with Billy Crystal in "Running Scared" and Willem Dafoe in "Off Limits." Now comes his third try, the sci-fi thriller "Eve of Destruction."

Hines is a capable actor but his choices in this vein have just gotten worse. "Running Scared" had some enjoyable repartee between Hines and Crystal, until it suffered a routine-violence meltdown. "Off Limits" was a ridiculous and obvious murder mystery set in Vietnam.

But "Eve of Destruction" is the bottom of the barrel. As Col. Jim McQuade, Hines does little more than shout and shoot, while his co-star gets to shine in the flashier character. Make that characters.

The "Eve" of the title is a dual role played by Dutch actress Renee Soutendijk. She is both his companion, a scientist who is helping track down her creation, and the creation itself — a robot that looks, acts and thinks just like her.

Well there is one minor difference: Eve VIII, as the robot is called, has a nuclear device implanted deep in her inner workings, has been damaged in a shootout and is on a bizarre rampage.

The only tap dancing Hines does as McQuade is around the small minds of his superiors. McQuade is an anti-terrorist expert whose specialty is being a crack shot. He's brought in to do military intelligence's dirty work; they want the robot brought down without having to notify the president or Congress. Naturally, McQuade is kept in the dark about his target's nuclear capabilities.

Before long, they figure out that the android is looking to creatively rectify her creator's regrets, fears and insecurities. Eve VIII acts out Eve's adolescent fantasy of behaving like a tramp at a rundown bar, tracks down Eve's father to avenge his alcoholic abuse during her childhood and ultimately kidnaps Eve's young son because she feels guilty about not spending enough time with him.

None of this would be such a problem if she didn't also leave an indiscriminate trail of dead bodies behind her — from crooks to cops.

This strange combination of "The Terminator," "RoboCop" and, toward the end, "Kramer vs. Kramer," has a few interesting ideas but lacks a sense of humor to balance out the frequent moments of tastelessness. In addition, Hines and Soutendijk seem to feel screaming is they only way they can demonstrate their characters' clashing personalities.

But as Eve VIII, Soutendijk gets an opportunity to wield an automatic weapon in a manner that would make Sigourney Weaver proud, sneer enough to make Arnold Schwarzenegger proud and pile up a body count that would make Bruce Willis proud.

But co-writer/director Duncan Gibbins, whose previous directing credits are music videos and the dubious "Fire With Fire," is likely responsible for keeping the film at an over-the-top pitch, not to mention its male-bashing tendencies.

There are other odd elements as well: Kevin McCarthy, cast as Soutendijk's father in the briefest of cameos; most of the film being so dark that you may begin to wonder if it wasn't shot during an eclipse; and a line of dialogue toward the end that has a government official saying that if Eve VIII does cause a nuclear explosion in New York they can always blame Iraq!

In light of current events the latter prompted boos rather than laughs at the showing I attended.

"Eve of Destruction," rated R for extreme violence and profanity, as well as sex, nudity and vulgarity, also seems far too mean-spirited, with none of the wit and style of the films it attempts to emulate.

In the end, "Eve," the movie, self-destructs.