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Film review: Package, The

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The good news is that "The Package" is free of the excessive blood 'n' guts, profanity and sex that are exploited to ridiculous degrees in such current thrillers as "Johnny Handsome," "Sea of Love" and "Lethal Weapon 2."

The bad news is that "The Package" is not nearly as compelling as any of those films.

Style and drive are everything in movies that have storylines that don't hold up to scrutiny, and "The Package" is as flat and bland as they come. "The Manchurian Candidate," for example, which this film somewhat resembles, has a plot that could be easily dismissed as preposterous — but it's so well made, filled with so many interesting ideas, that you don't think about its plot holes.

"The Package," however, just comes off as little more than a weak, routine assassination thriller, despite the presence of such strong screen personalities as Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones.

Hackman is an Army sergeant assigned to take a "package," meaning a prisoner, from Germany to the States. Jones is that "package," charged with striking an officer and up on court-martial charges. Once they reach Washington, D.C., Jones escapes from Hackman's custody and Hackman tries to track him down.

Naturally, Jones is not who he claims to be, and Hackman finds himself an accused killer — the Hitchcockian innocent-man-on-the-run — embroiled in a complicated plot that involves renegade high-ranking Army officers, neo-Nazis, corrupt cops, all kinds of hit men, an attempt to assassinate the president and plot holes big enough to drive trucks through.

Along the way, he finds time to team up with his ex-wife (Joanna Cassidy), an Army lieutenant colonel, who helps him uncover information. She then finds herself on the run with him.

With more style and panache, "The Package" could have been a crackling entry in the fall movie-thriller sweepstakes, but as it is the film has only a few interesting moments and mostly just lays there.

The cast is quite good, as you might expect, led by a sterling performance from Hackman, but when you look at the throwaway roles — both Jones and Pam Grier are sorely underused — you get the idea that first-time screenwriter John Bishop and action director Andrew Davis (Chuck Norris' "Code of Silence," Steven Seagal's "Above the Law") would rather have their characters crash a car than speak to each other.

"The Package" is rated R for profanity and violence.