Written by Dave Younger
Set in 1945 Germany, WWII is winding down, and The Japanese have just surrendered. A bunch of American officers have commandeered a castle outside of Frankfurt, Germany, and the discovery of a wine stash leads Colonel Jack Durant (Billy Zane) to thinking: What else could Princess Sophie have hidden before she fled? Jack is first seen flirting with Lt. Kathleen Nash (Lyne Renee), but she’s not buying. Then they discover a mother lode of jewels, enough to make them rich for the rest of their lives, and suddenly she’s hooked. Is it love, or money? There’s no time to wonder as many other, more vexing problems crop up: Princess Sophie discovers the theft of her jewels, a military investigation ensues, and how do they get the jewels to New York and fence them?
Co-written by Oscar nominee Nicholas Meyer (The Seven Per Cent Solution), The Hessen Conspiracy aka The Hessen Affair (2009, unrated, equivalent to R for language and nudity, 113 min.) is a solid, if unspectacular thriller based on a true story. Intrigue, romance, and plenty of twists and turns ensure an entertaining film. Billy Zane, who always seems to be enjoying himself, is good here, as is the elegant and alluring Lyne Renee, never more so than when her eyes twinkle after she’s been drinking. Michael Bowen (Lost) is solid as the double-dealing mobster Ben Cassidy, who is contacted to be the fence. With this much money at stake, can Kathy and Jack stay true to each other and avoid selling the other out?
German spy Sgt. Roy Tarlton (Rudolph Segers), part of the jewel discovery team, was cut out of the spoils, and he plots revenge. First he alerts Princess Sophie, who writes a letter to the Americans staying at the castle, saying she left some things behind and wants to come get them. This is, luckily, intercepted by Jack, who throws it into the fireplace, giving them time to get discharged and make their way to New York. Double crosses, mistaken identities, kidnappings, and investigations ensue, leading up to an exciting climax with switched bags and loyalties making us wonder right up to the end which side Kathy and Jack are on, and if love and riches can coexist.
The aspect ratio is 1.85:1. Subtitles are in English SDH. Production qualities are low, and the budget of $20 million doesn’t allow for more than workmanlike cinematography. Standard shots, nothing fancy, rule the day. There is an old-time feel here, with good use of saturation, and lots of classic cars.
The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1. The subwoofer is very effective at conveying the tension here, with deep rumbling signalling impending doom. The score is mainly in the surrounds, enveloping us in the excitement of the chase. Once again, this is pretty standard stuff, but effective.
This is an enjoyable, satisfying thriller. Billy Zane and Lyne Renee are sexy, and the supporting actors are well-cast and believable. If you don’t expect too much, this is a movie worth renting.