In Saigon, during the Vietnam war, Buck McGriff and Albaby Perkins are U.S. Military Policemen trying to do law enforcement in a chaotic city. When a prostitute is executed in bed, they investigate and they find a witness - the G.I. Maurice that is scared since the killer is an American officer. However Maurice is murdered and soon they find that there are six other prostitutes that have been murdered but their cases have vanished from the files. They meet the former investigator that gives a copy of his findings and they have five colonels as prime suspects that might be the serial-killer, but their friend Sargeant Dix warns that only three of them were in Saigon in the night of the last murder. McGriff finds that Sister Nicole has a witness hidden in the jungle with the Vietcong and he tries to convince her to let them meet her to find who the serial-killer is.
Murder mystery with a sweaty backdrop.
Off Limits (AKA: Saigon) is the missing Vietnam film, a film I feel not many have actually seen since I never see it mentioned on the message boards out there in net land. While I have certainly never heard it spoken about when talk of Vietnam films crops up. The film is in essence a who done it police drama, two cops on the streets of Saigon during the war are searching for a high ranking officer who is, erm, offing prostitutes.
It is the backdrop of the war that gives the film added substance and lifts it way above average, because we see not only the problems a murder investigation brings, but also the horror of war getting in the way as well. Some damn fine and tidy performances flesh out the characters, with both Gregory Hines & Willem Dafoe as our two stoic and battle weary coppers engaging us from the off, whilst the supporting cast of Fred Ward, Keith David (look out for his dance man!) & Scott Glenn are interestingly watchable; the latter of which who leaves the lasting impression with what has to be the best 5 minutes work he ever did during a brilliant interrogation sequence during a mid-air flight.
It's gritty and interesting and deserves to be better known and sought out. It doesn't pull up any trees as regards formula, and it certainly isn't one you will want to go back to time and time again for thrills and spills, but it hits the spot and as the mystery and stifling heat of Vietnam pervades the mood, you will remember watching it long after the credits have rolled. 7/10
Praise for an overlooked and fine film
Off Limits is a tense and even paced thriller. It concerns two cops is Viet Nam investigating a murder of a prostitute and the first suspect is a high ranking Army Officer. The film contains shock after shock, with plenty of plot twists. The dialogue is snappy and the interplay between Dafoe and Hines is excellent. The supporting actors are convincing as well. Kudos to Keith David who plays a paranoid witness to the murder. And one may not soon forget Scott Glenns portrayal as a crazed Officer. The scene in the helicopter is as tense and thrilling as a scene can get. The film is not a preachy summary of the war in Viet Nam but rather just a good mystery and slam bang action. The ending comes around too fast but you have to check it out for yourself. I suggest this film for a rainy Sunday afternoon if you are looking for a good action flick.
A quasi-cult film for me...
Off limits became something of a quasi-cult film for me. I was in Vietnam with the Marines north and south of Danang in 1968 and once fantasized about hitching a ride down Highway 1 to see Saigon, no small feat as it is something like 580 road miles. But the highway was full of vehicles during the day and you could always catch a ride. I never did get Saigon during the war, but finally did with a group of war vets in 1994. One of my favorite quips in the movie is when Dafoe turns around and finds some South Viet QCs (MPs) coming toward him and says, "We've got mice." That's what we GIs called Viets wearing helmets with QC (Quan Canh) on them. I am now spending several months in Saigon on sort of a temporary assignment, i.e., staying with the in-laws of my Viet wife on a winter break. I would like to see Off Limits again just to critique the city backdrop it used and how realistic it was. I thought this movie could have become a TV mini series but realize it would have been more expensive than China Beach in coming up with SE Asian sets to shoot on. I give it a 7, perhaps too high of a rating, as it goes good on a rainy Saturday afternoon over drinks with friends, especially if they happen to be Vietnam vets.
Pretty good thriller
I watched this film on Sky movies the other night, it is called Saigon here in the UK. It is of course set in Saigon and I think if you took this cop thriller and set it in LA or New York it would just be another average cop film. What makes it different is the setting and the backdrop of the Vietnam conflict. I must admit though I guessed the murderers identity about halfway through the film. It was also refreshing for the guy not to get the girl as it were! A decent if a quite forgotten film.
One of the more unique Vietnam movies
Gregory Hines and Willem Dafoe make an excellent team in this unusual murder mystery set in Vietnam.Actual filming overseas add to the realism.Anyone ever serving in the Pacific can attest to that.The soundtrack was great, using music not usually heard in most of the Vietnam movies.Supporting actors performances were also very good ( Fred ward, Amanda Pays ).I have collected all the Vietnam movies and rate this one of the best.
Nice bit of intrigue
Off Limits is a sweaty, grimy piece set in Saigon during the Vietnam war, and has little to do with the actual conflict itself. In the filthy whorehouses of the district, someone is viciously murdering prostitutes, sparking an investigation by the U.S. Military. They bring two plainclothes detectives, tough, idealistic, violent Buck Mcgriff (Willem Dafoe) and flippant, goofball Albaby Perkins (Gregory Hines, superb), who hides his cunning intuition behind the sarcasm. They are law enforcement in a land without a soul, let alone law. The chaos and confusion of the war puts a sheen of distraction over their efforts to find and stop this monster. Their commanding officer (Fred Ward) has few answers for them, and they are led on hunches into some sordid realms of investigation, from unruly potential suspects in the core (David Alan Grier, Keith David), and a demented, sadomasochistic Army Colonel with some truly strange ideas of a good time (Scott Glenn, bugfuck crazy). They are lead here and there on a wild goose chase, until it becomes apparent that the answer may be a little closer to home than they thought. Dafoe and Hines hold the whole pile of scummy intrigue together with their well oiled performances, and even when it threatens to go off the rails, their committed work steers it back on track. Its like a buddy cop flick with none of the laughs, set in a hell half a world away where there's no protocol, no backup, and no one speaks English. Enough to make a tense, unnerving thriller in my books.
Great Vietnam war movie
Very realistic and genuine to the Vietnam war. Shows another side of the conflict. Would highly recommend.
Bang-up action thriller
Tough Sgt. Buck McGriff (the always excellent Willem Dafoe) and his equally hard-nosed partner Sgt. Albaby Perkins (a sound and convincing performance by Gregory Hines) find themselves in tremendous jeopardy as they investigate a series of vicious Vietnamese prostitute murders in 1968 Saigon. Director Christopher Crowe, who also co-wrote the coarse and engrossing script with Jack Tibeau, relates the gripping story at a steady pace, creates and maintains an uncompromisingly harsh and gritty tone, builds a good deal of tension, and stages the rousing action set pieces with real crackling aplomb. The strong chemistry between Dafoe and Hines really keeps the picture humming; they receive sturdy support from Amanda Pays as streetwise nun Nicole, Fred Ward as their easygoing superior Dix, Scott Glenn as the fearsome and unhinged Colonel Dexter Armstrong, Keith David as surly uncooperative witness Maurice, David Alan Grier as the helpful Rogers, Kay Tong Lim as meddlesome Vietnamese cop Lime Green, and Raymond O'Connor as the paranoid Elgin Flowers. The seedy exotic location, unsparingly profane dialogue, sordid subject matter, startling outbursts of raw brutal violence, and a sizable smattering of nudity give this movie an extra tart'n'tangy kick. David Gribble's glittery cinematography and James Newton Howard's pulsating score are both up to par. A most worthwhile film.
Average crazed killer flic
Pretty decent offering featuring a couple of G.I. MP's who try to solve a string of brutal prostitute murders. After a while it was plain who the killer was. One part that just didn't play was the car bombing: I don't think yelling "get down" would save anybody in this case.
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