The Operative (2000)

The least convincing aspect of The Operative isn’t Brain “The Boz” Bosworth’s portrayal of a Texas cowboy billionaire (Grady) who works for the CIA. It also isn’t the Boz’s portrayal of a former CIA agent (Alec) who resembles the Texas cowboy billionaire so much, he’s forced by a former KGB agent to assume his identity for an art heist scheme. It isn’t even Vancouver straining to play Boston for no real reason (except for some Red Sox references whenever the Boz and the Russian were taking turns beating each other with baseball bats).

No, the worst offender in a film whose highlight was the Boz apparently doing his Burt Reynolds impression whenever he was either Grady or Alec pretending to be Grady, was the Grady theme song “21st Century Outlaw” desperately trying to evoke Kid Rock’s “Cowboy”.

Worstest of all though was that this song was the least annoying of an entire soundtrack filled with tuntastic trash that villainously vacillated between tracks of cruddy singing and anonymous electric guitar numbers. If you’re using your sucky songs to try and distract me from how bad the rest of the movie is, don’t waste your time because how can you can take your eyes off a Boz vs. Boz showdown where both are wearing fake facial hair? There’s isn’t a musical number bad enough to make me not notice that!

But what sort of crazy mixed up mirror universe have we fallen into where there are two Bozs? And both dressed as urban cowpokes? That scariest of all movie alternate realities – post Cold War Earth!

The 1990s were tough on the forgettable action movie market. No longer could someone just lazily chalk up some convoluted scheme to Soviet aggression. Now there had to be all these personal agendas, double dealing and philosophical talk about the fall of the Soviet Union and business being more important than political views.

As a result, you had an ex-KGB agent arranging for the Boz to break out of the Russian mental institution where he was held for eleven years and kidnapping him back to America so that he could force him to steal a painting for him. But as former Oklahoma Sooner football coach Barry Switzer knows, how do you force the Boz to do anything he doesn’t want to?

The Boz only has one weak point and her codename is Red Fox! At first I thought they were talking about legendary comedian Redd Foxx which undoubtedly would have made the film a bit more interesting. Then I remembered that earlier the Boz was performing oral sex on a hot Russian agent before getting captured trying to distract the Russian army while Red Fox and a scientist attempted to escape the country. And even after eleven years behind the Iron Curtain, the Boz only wants to be reunited with Red Fox! But first he has to steal a painting that Grady is supposed to buy or the Russians will kill her!

The plan is simple. Impersonate Grady, go into the bank, and take possession of the painting. If I was Grady, I’d be a little insulted that someone thought a guy who just spent eleven years in a mental hospital drugged out of his mind nonstop looked just like me. But then again, Grady is the kind of unthinking stupid that runs out of the bank yelling the name of his CIA handler while waving a gun in front of fifty SWAT guys who shoot the piss out of him. Even stupider? He was the second guy who ran out of the bank like that and got turned to Swiss cheese for his troubles.

The plan goes sideways and ends in a standoff with police once the real Grady shows up unexpectedly, leaving the bulk of the movie to have the Boz hanging around in the bank. The movie ties up all the loose ends involving the Boz’s treacherous CIA boss, the evil Russian KGB agent who masterminded this whole mess and the fate of Red Fox in the last few minutes. Even the corrupt SWAT commander got his comeuppance from the dogged old school detective, despite this conflict having virtually nothing to do with the Boz’s story!

While The Operative gets style points for having two Bozs in ridiculous costumes, sticking them in a bank with nothing to do for almost a full hour of the film is the action movie equivalent of a secret agent giving up and biting down on his cyanide pill tooth.

An hour at the bank means way too much Boz arguing with himself, bickering with Russians, Russians bickering with cops, talking on the phone with the CIA so that the silly plot can be explained (some drivel about a formula for cold fusion hidden in the painting) and for the head bad guy (who had escaped) to repeatedly and unconvincingly reassure his crew he was working on a plan to rescue them. And then the siege ends with the Russians dead and Boz leaving his cozy bank vault the next morning with his old CIA boss. I’ve been less bored at church lock ins!

While the Boz doesn’t get much of an opportunity for action (other than of the bedroom kind obviously) and the hoped for tough guy dialogue is decidedly lacking or just not that clever (he says “now hold still, I want to clear the Green Monster” before bashing the bad guy’s head in with a baseball bat), he at least looks like he’s trying to have fun with his twangy accent while he’s in his Grady persona, but nothing else about this project rises above what you would unfortunately expect from the writer of Steven Seagal‘s The Keeper and the director of Michael Dudikoff‘s The Silencer.

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