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The Sender (1997)


Everybody admired Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs (1992), ja?  I mean, you have to like a guy who can deftly cut a rug and an ear.  And Double-M was appealing enough in subsequent roles, you didn't laugh when he published a volume of poetry.  Well, not in his face, anyway.

His acting resume full of gems, mercurial Mr. Madsen made it past the ranks of hired helpdom in 1997, pulling down an Associate Producer credit for The Sender, easily the tip-top UFO-themed film featuring Robert Vaughn since 1980's remarkable Image Hangar 18.  And if you've seen the latter, you know exactly how high Sender director Richard Pepin had to soar to reach that level of cerebrum-scorching entertainment.  Why, in H18, the Middle-Aged-Man From U.N.C.L.E. was called upon to portray an adviser to a U.S. President attempting to conceal the truth from the American people--like that would every really happen!  These screenwriters sure come up with some kooky premises.  Next, they'll be trying to convince us family connections and sexual favors secure job advancement better than continually putting in an honest day's work!!!

 Who you callin' 'Mister Pink'?

Following Elvis' instructions to "return to Sender"...the third "name" celebrity in the billing is the aging-disgracefully Dyan Cannon.  The fair-weather NBA fan appears as Gina, wife of retired cloak-and-dagger operative Ron Fairfax (Vaughn), and a Company agent in her own right.  True to form, Gina demonstrates her undying loyalty for a lifetime of wedded bliss by selling Ron out at the very first opportunity.  Geez, bro, the good-time Charlene seemingly only turns up at pro hoops games--to pull for the stinkin' L.A. Fakers, no less--when they're nationally televised; so, you should have known you couldn't trust that two-faced hussy.

(Memo to insulted Lakers fans: I've got a magic johnson for ya, right here, okay?)

A noted second-tier celeb lends able support to the forenamed triad.  Here's your chance to catch R. Lee Ermey, the gruff, macho-mouthed sergeant from Full Metal Jacket, as you've never seen him before--playing a gruff, macho-mouthed Colonel.  (R., as he's known to his mom, may be typecast, but at least he gets promoted.)

Here’s the set-up.  Dallas Grayson (Madsen) is having a pretty ordinary day.  A covert military group has dredged up the wreckage of his Naval-flier father's plane shot down by a UFO in the Bermuda Triangle twenty-plus years ago. His daughter Lisa's cancer has gone into complete remission in one week thanks to secret hospital visits from her "angel," in actuality, a spacechick apparently from the planet Pectoral Siliconus, beamed down to Earth--by the same aliens who "accidentally" zapped the lil gal's Grampa--to teach the child supercharged telekinesis which Lisa can perform due to a genetic mutation that only occurs in Grayson females.  And the special-ops spooks who fished out the plane parts have set their sights on kidnapping the kid and using her "sender" abilities to gleefully massacre innocent civilians in galaxies they can't even see.  

Yup, just another drab day in the hood.Image

Okay, maybe The Sender storyline is no great shakes.  It's the meat on dem bones what makes the pic officially Certified By Stately.  If fashion is your passion, you'll be pleased to note, rather than the boring old high-ranking officer in a starched uniform dripping with medals, Sender's head heavy is an ear-ringed homeboy with a penchant for modified Nehru jackets; and his key cracker aide has the sort of l-o-n-g, pulled-back hair normally seen in Kung Fu Theater dramas set in the 19th century.  Good Lawd, the CIA's been taken over by two dance club gigolos!  No wonder the stuffy Feds hate them!!  

Our head heavy learns the Fashion Police refuse to accept collect calls.

Action, action, you want action?  A-C-T I-O-N?  The Sender gives you not one but three Madsen-as-prey motor vehicle chases--plus a bonus fourth nail-biter when he's dogged by model copters attacking Angel's ship.  We even watch a Winnebago get wiped out!  In what is surely a miracle on wheels, not a single one of the myriad cars cracked up is less than a dozen years old.  That in and of itself is not such a big deal.  But the fact that an obvious attempt to cut cost corners is so glaringly CONSPICUOUS is the sort of detail separating a true junkfilm from the pretenders to the ceramic throne.

You want fries and an equally blatant technical boner to go with that?  How about a scene where they alternate betwixt shots of Ms Cannon leading confederates through a fortress, and shots of her still bound-up in the back of a truck?!?  Extra credit, anyone?  The actress portraying Angel had the career foresight to select the pseudonym Shelli Lether, a name sure to warm the heart of your cockles, fellow lechers.

"But, Stately, the movies you recommend are so difficult to find."  Not this time, Manormaniacs: to circumvent said sitcheeation, I intentionally selected a flick currently getting frequent cable play.  That means you can see The Sender for virtually nothing.  And it's worth every penny of it.

(Author's overdramatic warning: Don't confuse this Sender with the 1982 film of the same name…or you'll be cursed forever!)


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