The Fourth War

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When asked what kind of weapons would be used in the third world war, Einstein replied that he didn't know, but that the fourth war would be fought with stones. Nothing in this rather old-fashioned thriller has the bite of this remark. Scheider plays the clichéd military hardass, a veteran of Vietnam, divorced, disenchanted. 'A warrior', says his old comrade General Harry Dean Stanton, who intuitively installs him as a base commander on the German-Czech border. Soon Scheider is mounting one-man nocturnal sorties behind the Iron Curtain, partying with Soviet patrols and incurring the wrath of his Russian counterpart (Prochnow). The latter is Scheider's kind of guy; he was in Afghanistan. As Stanton puts it, in a rare animated moment, these are two 'disillusioned, pissed-off malcontents', and when the inevitable macho stand-off develops, it's to hell with the consequences. The Fourth War may have been conceived as the thinking person's Rambo, but in the event it isn't a patch on First Blood; for a simple story, it's quite a mess, the very dubious voice-over hardly clarifying a clumsy sense of chronology. With the twists in the intrigue all too blatant, the climactic fight is a relief when it comes.

Release details

Duration: 90 mins

Cast and crew

Director: John Frankenheimer
Screenwriter: Stephen Peters, Kenneth Ross
Cast: Roy Scheider
Harry Dean Stanton
Jürgen Prochnow
Tim Reid
Lara Harris
Dale Dye
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