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Though his reputation has been sullied by a decade of near-hits and flops punctuated by 2002's Rollerball, director John McTiernan defined what good American action was with the triumvirate of 1987's Predator, 1988's Die Hard, and 1990's The Hunt for Red October. These films were well paced, intelligent, and action-packed, leading one to think that McTiernan would become a new generation's Don Siegel. And though the later films — like 1995's Die Hard with a Vengence, 1999's remake The Thomas Crown Affair — aren't without merit, nothing has lived up to these three earlier works. One would hope McTiernan's directorial debut, 1986's Nomads, would be in line with the better efforts, but it isn't — instead it's an interesting premise turned into a sadly disjointed horror film. Leslie Anne Down stars as Dr. Flax, who on her 32nd hour on a 36-hour shift has to sedate a deranged man who's covered in blood (Pierce Brosnan) and shouting in French. Flax tries to find someone to translate, but when she gets close to her patient he settles down for a second, only to whisper something and then bite her ear. He dies shortly thereafter, but Flax begins to violently re-experience his last days: The man's name was Jean Charles Pommier, and he was a married anthropologist who came to California to teach, but was drawn into following around a roving band of strangers outside his neighborhood. At first he thinks they are nomads or gypsies, but it turns out they are much worse. At the beginning of Nomads the film makes a big mistake that it never fully recovers from: Since half the running time is dedicated to Brosnan's story told through flashbacks, it's building tension for a tale that's resolution is evident. Without relying on a fatalism that would lend to Brosnan's decent into hell, it's hard to care about him or understand his need to follow these people around, and this derails the sections with Leslie Anne Down, since she's never in as much danger as he was. There are a couple of startling moments along the way, but the nomads themselves look like an aging Republican's version of evil ("look, it's Adam Ant and Mary Woronov looking punk!"), which means they are never as creepy as they're meant to be. However, it should be noted that — though his accent is a little silly — Pierce Brosnan is good in one of the few roles he's had that doesn't lean on smart-ass grins and winks. MGM's Nomads DVD comes in both anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and pan-and-scan, with DD 2.0 mono audio. Trailer, keep-case.

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