The Honorary Consul (1983)

US Title: Beyond the Limit

screenshot from The Honorary Consul

Directed by: John Mackenzie
Screenwriter(s): Christopher Hampton (from the novel by Graham Greene)
Starring: Richard Gere, Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Elpidia Carrillo, A Martinez, Joaquim de Almeida, Geoffrey Palmer
Genre: Drama
Country: UK / MEX
Running time: 1h 44m
Rating: 2 out of 10

Richard Gere was in the early peak of his career, coming off the success of American Gigolo, when he chose this as his next big project. No doubt he wanted to be seen as a serious actor and not a sex object. Fair enough, he’s a very serious guy. But he could have shown more discretion in his choice of project, perhaps picking something which was a little more of a realistic leap for him. Instead, he is horrendously miscast as Eduardo Plarr, the local doctor in the Argentinian town of Corrientes. Eduardo’s supposed to be the public school-educated son of a wealthy Englishman; for Richard, this just means enunciating carefully and quietly, so quietly you can hardly hear him and so slowly that you lose the will to live before he completes a sentence.

The basic plot is that Eduardo moves into Corrientes, meets the honorary British Consul, Charlie Fortnum (Caine), an incorrigable drunk. Fortnum and the local chief of police, Colonel Perez (Hoskins), introduce him to the realities of life in the border town, which is under military occupation due to the high incidence of Paraguayan terrorism in the area. Eduardo starts having a totally passionless affair with Fortnum’s 19 year old ex-prostitute wife (Carrillo, who spends most of her screen time half-naked) and gets involved with terrorists who mistakenly kidnap Charlie instead of the American Ambassador.

Michael’s acting his socks off here, leaving Charlie as the only sympathetic character on view, and he’s the only one who seems to be treating the Graham Greene source material with the respect it deserves. He was BAFTA-nominated for Best Actor, but lost out to himself for Educating Rita. The usually reliable Hoskins has a worse Spanish accent than Gere’s English one. In fact, it’s so bad, it’s racially offensive. The characters are one-dimensional and Mackenzie directs at a snail’s pace, which adds to the general feeling that nothing interesting is happening.

The film was renamed Beyond the Limit for release in the US as, clearly, the distributors felt that American audiences weren’t smart enough to cope with working out what an Honorary Consul is. Beyond the Limit is an utterly meaningless title which does little to illuminate audiences (US or otherwise) as to the point of the film. But then, I’m assuming that there is actually a point to the film at all and I have no evidence to back this assumption.

It all ends badly, but you won’t care by then. In fact, you’ll find it hard to care about anything because the sheer tedium will have sucked every last ounce of energy from your body.

Other films also starring Bob Hoskins