''Year of the Gun'' has its good and bad points. Done by John Frankenheimer (''Manchurian Candidate''), the film begins to intrigue toward close, but there is much to endure before we get there.
It isn't so much the director's fault. Well, it was he who decided to do a film about Italy's Red Brigades, so he has to share some of the blame.
The basic trouble with the film is that it all seems so silly. Yes, the Red Brigades were real. Yes, they caused as much trouble in Italy as the '60s rebel groups caused in this country, but it is difficult to make these people seem less than childish.
In this case, Frankenheimer doesn't even try. He has his %J conspirators walk around with coats slung over their shoulders, bTC smoking as they ride gondolas in Venice and, in general, behaving as though they are post-college citizens who are taking themselves and life much too seriously.
The Americans are no less silly. One is a reporter who has written a book predicting that Aldo Moro, former premier of Italy, will be kidnapped by the Red Brigades. That gets him into hot water with the Brigades. Another American is a young woman who works free lance and manages to find herself in the right place at the right time.
She is sexually liberated, as people were in those days (the film takes place in 1978), and we see a lot of that, all of it very silly, because that's what these scenes have become, cliche. It may be time to go back to fade-outs. Seeing a young man feverishly pin his girl against the door has become a movie joke, a very amusing one, and that was certainly not Frankenheimer's purpose.
Andrew McCarthy plays the American author, Sharon Stone is the American free-lance writer-photographer, and Valeria Golino is the Italian woman who loves the American writer.
''Year of the Gun'' has a hard and gritty look to it. Would that the dramatics were as interesting as the location filming, most of which was done in Rome.
The film prepares us for what is to come with a billboard that explains who the Red Brigades were. It does not, however, tell us, at close, what finally ended their reign of terror. They made the mistake of kidnapping an American general, and when the Italian police rescued the man, the Brigades were on their way out.
''Year of the Gun'' opens here today. It plays like an old-fashioned espionage film, the Brigades riding about Rome on
motor bikes and wearing head masks.
''Year of the Gun''
** An American writer becomes involved with the Red Brigades of Italy.
CAST: Andrew McCarthy, Sharon Stone, Valeria Golino
DIRECTOR: John Frankenheimer
RATING: R (sex, nudity, language, violence)
) RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes