Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Great Moments in Bad Films: Masterminds

We've all seen bad pictures. Maybe you thought they would be good. Maybe, like me, you had a friend who was going through a rough patch and you accompanied them to something you knew would suck; it's the only reason I saw The Island and Transformers to support a divorce-besieged pal. God, I'm a good friend to have on your side...

Yet lots of films that are "no good" still show little touches, moments of wit, cleverness, inspiration... This post is dedicated to one such scene: 1997's Masterminds follows the plot of another inferior movie, Toy Soldiers. The whole concept is that a boarding school is overrun by terrorists who find that the kids are as resourceful as John McClane in Die Hard.

The only reason I watched Masterminds was my recovery from a medical procedure many years ago - it was playing on cable, and I was too dazed/lazy to change the channel. So I lay down and watched a reasonably well-made, if not-good, film. Unlike some of the trash that I've seen, it had at least one redeeming moment. I'll show it to you after a little intro that's largely necessary for Americans.

Soccer is probably the hardest sport in the world. US football involves tons of padding, to the point that it's ridiculous to foreigners. Unless you've played it a lot and/or really love it, you may think "why are these Rugby players wearing 20 lbs. of padding? Are they scared?" Soccer players can get hurt way worse than offensive and defensive linemen, running backs, et al - they have no protection.

Soccer is the most popular game in the world, and I respect that - even though my not-American father never got me into it. And I think anyone would be amazed by the sheer passion that soccer/football inspires in its fans. Now we can turn back to the movie.

In Masterminds, Patrick Stewart plays the lead villain. He's much like Hans Gruber from Die Hard, I think - he's got tons of greed, but natural ingenuity backs up his well-laid plans. Near the film's end, Stewart finds himself enacting what is probably his back-up escape plan. Patrick is nearly free, and all he has to do is not look like the dude who just held a whole prep academy hostage.

To the benefit of everyone watching - and people who know at least a bit about English soccer clubs - he chose to disguise himself cleverly. The best liars stick with things they know, stuff that's close to their heart. In this case, Stewart strips off his terrorist-gear, revealing a soccer jersey for Manchester United, one of the most famous teams in the world. And his zeal is astounding.

I hope it's not just me. Please, watch this moment, and Patrick Stewart's earnest, excited performance, and enjoy this one fine moment in the midst of a largely low-grade film. I hope you laugh as hard as I did.


  1. I'd like to point out that Stewart is in a dune buggy, just like in Star Trek Nemesis. So we know now why he took this role.

    1. Yes, Ms. Thrace, you're right! Although even for an avid lover of driving like Mr. Stewart, I don't think he was calling shots on the Masterminds set the same way that we could with a Star Trek film.

      And for anyone who doesn't know what we're talking about, you can check out Red Letter Media's hilarious review of Star Trek Nemesis here -

      Patrick talks about his love of driving, and that the director gave him "a gift" by allowing him to indulge a real-life passion whilst on-screen. I should've noted the dune buggy connection myself, but this is why I'm so thankful for sharp people like yourself =)


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