John Badham

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7.0 Saturday Night Fever (1977)
6.8 WarGames (1983)
6.8 Short Circuit (1986)
6.4 Stakeout (1987)
5.0 Point of No Return (1993)
6.6 Nick of Time (1995)
5.5 Incognito (1997)

John Badham (1939), born in Britain but raised in the USA, debuted with the comedy The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976) but found success with the semi-musical Saturday Night Fever (1977), a portrait of young losers who are the disco-era descendants of the juvenile delinquents of the 1950s. The 19-year-old Tony lives with his Italian-American parents, works in a paint shop, and dropped out of school to devote himself to his hobby: dancing. He hangs out with four friends from the same Italian-American community: Joey, Double J, Gus and Bobby. Bobby has a car that they use to drive around. An excellent dancer, Annette, is in love with Tony, and tells Tony about a dance competition where they could team up, but Tony has his eyes on a new, older and classier girl, Stephanie, whom he sees at the dance studio of his friend Pete. One day his parents are in mourning: their older son Frank, a priest, of whom they were so proud, has decided to quit the priesthood. Tony is happy to hang out with his brother. One night Gus is attacked by a gang and ends up at the hospital with a broken leg. Meanwhile, Bobby gets a girl pregnant and is desperate because abortion is out of the question and everybody tells him that he has to marry her. Tony flirts in vain with Stephanie who mocks him for being too young, uneducated and with no prospect in life. However, Stephanie accepts to team up with Tony for the dance contest. One night they show off on the dancefloor and make Annette jealous. Annette offers herself to Tony in Bobby's car but she is not taking the pill and Tony doesn't take her virginity. Later she is taken by the boys to the bridge where they goof around risking their lives. Frank decides to leave the house to start a new life. Bobby keeps asking Tony for advice but Tony is only preoccupied with seducing Stephanie, who still keeps him at arm's length. One day Tony borrows Bobby's car and quits his job in order to help Stephanie move to a new place, only to find out that Stephanie used to live with a man. Pressured by Tony, Stephanie breaks down and confesses that the man helped her get her job. Tony is jealous and disappointed. More worried and jealous than ever, Annette shows up with condoms, basically begging Tony to take her virginity. One night the guys decide to take revenge on the gang that they suspect was behind Gus' beating. They crash Bobby's car into the gang's hangout and get into a big fight with them, while Bobby, scared, drives away. Tony, Double J, and Joey get scratches and bruises all over their faces. Then they report to Gus at the hospital only to learn that Gus is not certain it was that gang that attacked him. Finally it's the night of the dance competition at their favorite disco. Tony and Stephanie are awarded the top prize, but Tony knows that a Latino couple did better and refuses the prize. Tony, visibly upset with the whole world, tries to rape Stephanie in the car but she manages to escape. Annette, on drugs, offers herself to the whole group of Italian-American kinds. As Bobby drive, Joey takes her virginity in the back seat. Then it's Double J's turn, even though Annette tries to disentangle herself. Tony seats silently next to Bobby who drives, also traumatized. Bobby, humiliated by his own cowardice during the gang fight, terrified at the prospect of having to marry, hurt by Tony's indifference for his tragedy, and disgusted by the rape, stops at the usual bridge and this time he gets out and starts goofing like the others often did. Tony realizes that Bobby is doing something truly stupid and tries to stop him but Bobby falls into the river before Tony can grab him. The cops arrive but there's nothing they can do. Tony walks away from his friends and takes random trains of the subway. Finally in the morning he shows up at Stephanie's place, a changed man, determined to grow up. Tony says he just wants her as his friend, but Stephanie now kisses him.

After his version of Dracula (1979), and the adaptation of a Brian Clark theatrical play, Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981) he directed Blue Thunder (1983) that spun off a television series.

WarGames (1983) is a sci-fi movies, one of the first ones to feature a software hacker as the protagonist. The plot, however, is nothing more than a version for teenager of the classic Hitchcock plot: the innocent thrown into a dangerous conspiracy who has to prove his innocence, and save the world, all by himself.

While the experts of the USA government are setting up top-secret automatic fail-proof computer systems to respond to a nuclear attack, a harmless, middle-class high-school kid, David, is playing with Video games and is turning his bedroom into a mad-scientist laboratory (in the process neglecting his cute girlfriend, Jennifer). A creative hacker, he knows how to alter his grades in the school's database. One day, he accidentally stumbles into a computer that, despite hosting a parade of games, behaves differently from any other he has tried so far. David eventually manages to crack the computer's code and enter into its protected area. The computer thinks he is Dr Falken, the inventor who, before dying, devised the simulation game. He then proceeds to play "thermonuclear war" with the computer. It turns out this is the top-secret computer of the government, codenamed Joshua, which is now simulating a real-life nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. The top-secret facility goes on maximum alert: the USA is ready to strike back. Luckily, David's father calls him and David has to suspend the game, giving the experts enough time to figure out that an intruder caused a glitch. The following day David and Jennifer see the news on tv that the USA went close to starting a nuclear war, and realize the connection. Joshua calls back because it wants to continue playing the game, and David, scared, hangs up.
Too late: the FBI arrests him. They have figured out who caused the glitch. David maintains that he simply wanted to play a game, but the officers suspect he is working for the Soviets and arrest him for espionage. David has realized that Joshua is still playing the game and is about to start World War III, but nobody listens to him. So he has to run away and start his own search for the secrets of the dead Dr Falken. He is joined by Jennifer, the only one who believes him. The two kids find dr Falken, who is not dead at all. The inventor tells them coldly that he hopes humans will self-destroy, so that nature can start all over again. Joshua is, in the meantime, continuing the "game": the alert level keeps increasing and the world is now on the verge of WW3. Falken has second thoughts, picks up the kids on a helicopter and flies to the base, in time to stop the president from ordering a massive strike: Falken promises that what they see on the screen is just a simulation, there are no Soviet missiles. For a few minutes they wait, while the screens show the missiles coming closer and closer, and eventually hitting the USA. Radio contact with the places that are being hit proves that they are not being hit: the computer is only playing a game. The base erupts in a joyful celebration, but now the computer keeps playing, and nobody, not even Falken, can stop it: Joshua is continuing the game, and is getting ready to fire the missiles himself. David figures out how to stop it: by engaging it in a game that has no winner (tic-tac-toe played by the computer itself against itself). Joshua goes mad, and starts simulating all possible strategies of nuclear war. The screen shows the USA and the Soviet Union being destroyed in a thousand different combinations. Eventually, Joshua stops: the game makes no sense. In a ridiculous ending, Joshua asks the inventor to play a game of chess instead.

American Flyers (1985)

Short Circuit (1986) is a sci-fi comedy about a robot named "No. 5" that/who is struck by lightning and becomes a sentient being.

Stakeout (1987), scripted by Jim Kouf, is a police film with plenty of action and a little bit of comedy and romance.

A young convict, Stick, beats the guard and, with the help of his cousin Caylor, escapes from prison. Chris (Dreyfuss) and Bill (Emilio Estevez) are two cops fighting crime in the streets of the city. While chasing a small-time crook, they end up in a fish-processing plant, and Chris falls in a machine slipping down the chute and getting all filthy. Back at the station, the boss asks them to help the FBI with the case of the convinct, who happens to be a sociopathic cop killer. The two cops are not excited that their assignment is simply to watch over the convict's girlfriend, Maria, just in case the man tries to contact her. Chris falls in love with the woman and, pretending to be a phone technician, makes her acquaitance. They get along and start dating. Bill keeps the secret but is nervous and several times Chris' love affair is about to be discovered by other colleagues.
Maria does not know that she has Stick's money. Stick and Caylor are chased by the police: the car chase ends in a river and the police safely assumes that both men drowned. Chris' job is over and he has to tell Maria that he has been lying to her all the time. Maria is devastated. Chris has just left that Stick, far from dead, shows up and recovers the money that has been hidden in a piece of furniture all those years. Chris returns and Stick captures him, but Chris pretends he is also running from the law. When his partner Bill breaks in to free him, Chris pretends Bill is after him, not after Stick. After a lengthy fight by the harbor, Chris, helped by Maria, kills Stick and can walk away with her.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Sara Liotta)

Stakeout (1987), dal copione di Jim Kouf, è un film poliziesco carico d’azione a tratti comico ma anche romantico.

Un giovene detenuto, Stick, colpisce la guardia e, con l’aiuto del cugino Caylor, evade di prigione. Chris (Dreyfuss) e Bill (Emilio Estevez) sono due agenti di polizia che combattono il crimine nelle strade della città. Mentre stanno inseguendo un delinquente poco importante, si ritrovano in una fabbrica per il trattamento del pesce e Chris cade, scivolando e sporcandosi tutto. Tornati alla stazione di polizia, il capo gli chiede di aiutare l’FBI con il caso del detenuto evaso, che risulta essere un omicida sociopatico fissato con gli agenti di polizia. I due poliziotti non sono affatto contenti perché il loro incarico è di controllare la fidanzata dell’evaso, Maria, nel caso che l’uomo carcasse di contattarla. Chris si innamora della donna e, fingendo di essere un tecnico della società telefonica, riesce a conoscerla. Continuano a vedersi e iniziano ad innamorarsi. Bill mantiene il segreto ma è molto nervoso e in più di un’occasione la relazione di Chris rischia di essere scoperta dagli altri colleghi.

Maria non è ha conoscenza del fatto che il denaro di Stick è a casa sua. Stick e Caylor sono inseguiti dalla polizia: la macchina cade in un fiume e i poliziotti credono che entrambi gli uomini siano annegati. Il compito di Chris è terminato e ora deve dire a Maria che le ha mentito per tutto il tempo. Maria è sconvolta. Chris è appena andato via quando arriva Stick, tutt’altro che morto, recupera il denaro che aveva nascosto in un mobile e che era rimasto lì per tutti quegli anni. Chris ritorna e Stick lo cattura, ma Chris finge di essere anche lui uno che scappa dalla legge. Quando il suo compagno Bill entra nell’appartamento per liberarlo, Chris finge che Bill sia lì per arrestare lui e non Stick. Dopo una lunga lotta vicino al porto, Chris, aiutato da Maria, uccide Stick e vanno via insieme.

Then came Bird on a Wire (1990), The Hard Way (1991), Point of No Return (1993), which is a Hollywood remake of Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita (1990), Another Stakeout (1993), and Drop Zone (1994).

The story of the suspenseful thriller Nick of Time (1995), with visuals inspired by Hitchcock's movies, unfolds in real time.

Gene is young father arriving at a train station with his little daughter Lynn. While the train pulled into the city, they saw scenes of violence along the tracks. Gene has a brief confrontation with a skater who harasses Lynn. Meanwhile, two undercover agents, a man and a woman, are watching the crowds of the station and notice him. They suddenly approach Gene and take him and Lynn forcefully to a van parked outside. The male agent quickly and coldly explains that they want Gene to assassinate a woman and that they will hold his daughter hostage. He has less than one hour and a half to carry out the mission or his daughter will be killed. Gene doesn't have time to recover from the shock that they drop him at a fancy hotel where, always followed by the male agent, he notices a giant poster of the woman he's supposed to assassinate: the state governor. Gene takes a taxi and frantically writes a message on a business card for the taxi driver but the taxi driver tosses the business card out of the window. The male agent gets him a sticker that identifies him as a major donor to the governor's reelection campaign. At the hotel he steps into an elevator with the governor herself but the male agent follows him and so Gene doesn't have a chance to warn the governor and ask for help. Gene still has an hour before the deadline and sits at a shoeshine stand. He tries to whisper to the black shoeshiner, who is also a war veteran, but the black man is hard of earing. Gene sees the van parked outside, runs out, points the gun at the female agent and asks that she lets Lynn go (Lynn is asleep) but the female agent claims to have a gun pointed at the girl, and Gene has to return to the hotel. He walks towards the security area where the governor will speak and volunteers to be checked for guns, and is shocked to realize that the security staff is on to the assassination scheme: they let him in knowing that he has a gun. Gene approaches the man in charge of security himself and realizes that he too is part of the scheme. Now Gene's problem is that not only he needs help but he has to find someone who can be trusted. He points the gun at the governor's assistant Krista and forces her to listen to his story. Krista believes him and escorts him to the room of the campaign manager, who happens to be the governor's husband, who is talking with a rich campaign donor. The two are skeptic of Gene's account and then... the male agent appears, who coldly kills Krista in front of all of them: the husband and the rich donor are part of the conspiracy. The male agent knocks him unconscious and Gene dreams of being thrown down the high-rise building. Gene has another change to return to the shoeshiner, and this time the male agent sits next to him. Gene tells him that the shoeshiner is deaf and, out of curiosity, the shoeshiner goes along with the lie. This way the shoeshiner can hear that there is a plot and promises to help. The shoeshiner finds a hotel boy willing to trade clothes with Gene so that Gene can sneak into the governor's room and talk directly to her. The governor tests her husband: she tries to cancel the speech and asks for her assistant Krista. Her husband tells her that the speech cannot be canceled and that Krista is off to an errand. She also finds her husband with the rich donor, whom she dislikes. She now knows that her husband is trying to kill her. There are only a few minutes left for Gene to carry out the assassination before the female agent kills his daughter. The governor begins her speech and Lynn pulls out the gun, but then turns and shoots at the male agent. Gene misses and the male agent shoots directly at the governor but her bodyguard protects her with his own body. Gene is now chased by the corrupt security officers through the corridors of the hotel. Time is up: in the van the female agent is preparing to kill Lynn. Lynn is saved by the shoeshiner, who shows up to distract the female agent and then gets into a fight with her. The male agent arrives and shoots at Lynn, who hides under the seat. The male agent is about to finish her when Gene arrives in time to kill the male agent, who, before dying, congratulates Gene on having become a killer. The husband is arrested but the rich donor walks out of the hotel unharmed and steps on the watch that Gene has lost in the fight, a watch that marks the time past the deadline.

Incognito (1997)

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