H is for… Hidden Agenda
The running gag while watching Hidden Agenda was asking each other, “Does the ‘hidden’ part refer to the plot?”
There was a basic, followable plot that was buried under endless characters, though I do have to give the movie props for naming all of its characters and using their names enough to remember who everyone is. Sometimes I have a heck of a time learning characters’ names.
But, back to the complicated plot of this thriller… It was sort of like the agent/witness protection equivalent of watching a killer animal movie where the writer and director think, “Okay, there’s going to be a shark.” “No, a robot shark.” “A robot shark with a jetpack!” “A robot shark with jetpack and lasers that shoot out of its eyes!”
The result was a simple plot with a likable main character and cast that had a bad guy split across five different characters, and nothing was quite explained well enough–or it was overly explained which slowed down the actual narrative story.
Regardless, Hidden Agenda, directed by Marc S. Grenier, stars Dolph Lundgren as Jason Price, a former FBI agent who specializes in witness protection, or hiding people who need to vanish for their own safety. He has a team who helps him with this, comprised of Connie (Brigitte Paquette), Kevin (Harry Standjofski), and Charlie (Christian Paul). His former childhood friend Sonny (Ted Whittall) is still working for the FBI, but becomes a witness/accessory and needs to use Price’s protection network, Daedalus, to vanish.
Complicating matters are a feud between FBI agent Sam Turgenson (Alan Fawcett) and NSA agent Powell (Francis X. McCarthy) as they hunt down the man Price is currently protecting, Paul Elkert (Serge Houde). Elkert was caught in a sting set up by Sonny, and has a hit out on him. He is followed by Renee Brooks (Maxim Roy), who claims she needs Elkert to get into his safety deposit box.
It’s made quite clear that Price, his team, and the Daedalus network are very effective at hiding people who need protection, and when Sonny is killed while within the network, it is suspected that the Cleaner, an assassin, is inside the network and is hunting for Elkert. Price needs to trace Elkert’s path to find him and protect him, while Renee tags along for her own reasons.
Everything culminates in Montreal, with half the cast dead or arrested, and our heroes receiving an excellent payday while Price and Renee sail off into the sunset with their share of the money.
I wish I could do the plot a little more justice, but as I said, the whole “Price runs Elkert through his network, finds his own life in danger, and has to find Elkert and discover the truth” is buried in a ton of explication and characters. I didn’t even mention Yoesky (Andreas Apergis), who is the one who is actually angry with Elkert.
Anyway, on to the criteria.
A is for… Accents
Dolph is clearly still battling his Swedish accent here, but I don’t know if it would be noticeable to someone who didn’t know that English isn’t his first language.
Yoesky has a…European? accent.
B is for… Bad Guys
It’s clear from the first time they meet that FBI agent Turgenson and Price don’t get along, when Price helps hide Moretti (Jeff Hall), Turgenson’s target. Ultimately he makes Price think the Cleaner is inside his Daedalus network so Price has to go within it himself, and Turgenson can follow him to Elkert. At the end it’s revealed that Turgenson had killed various people within the network, and is wanted on five counts of murder in the first degree.
NSA agent Powell works with Turgenson as much as he has to for the common goal, but it’s ultimately revealed that he’s been using the syndicate (I’m not sure who that is) to “illegally divert weapons to some dirty little war somewhere,” as explained by Price. Elkert knew this, but Powell didn’t want the FBI to know.
Sonny is Price’s friend from childhood, and they grew up in the foster care system together. He is the one who lured Elkert into the sting, and Elkert later explains that Sonny liked the mob lifestyle. Sonny fakes his death during the course of the movie.
The Icarus Group–I totally missed who they are–I think Elkert’s band of villains, thieves, and scoundrels.
The Cleaner is an assassin who threatens Elkert and kills other people during the grand jury hearing, which was secret and so could only be known by someone on the inside. Renee describes him as expensive and that he never misses, and his presence inside Daedalus means there’s a risk he’ll expose all of the targets Price is trying to hide, giving the FBI visibility on where everybody is. At the end it’s revealed that the Cleaner doesn’t exist. …or is it Renee?
Paul Elkert stole money from Yoesky, and is hiding from the FBI. Price’s goal is to use his Daedalus network to get Elkert beyond the vanishing point.
Yoesky was robbed by Elkert, and put the original hit out on him. Elkert made everyone look bad, and is in bed with the FBI.
C is for… Chases
The Feds chase Blue Leisure Suit Man (Moretti, but I like BLSM better) through the Dulles airport, and ultimately onto a runway with an airplane coasting down it. The drive down the runway would have been enough, but with that airplane in the background, gaining on them… let’s just say the chase ended a bit more sedately than it could have, considering what was being telegraphed.
Price and Renee chase after the long-haired thug in Boston, who turns out to be Sonny.
D is for… Damsels
Renee Brooks explains to Price that she was Elkert’s associate at Icarus. She took care of his finances, including setting up shell companies to hide Icarus’s practices. She also goes to the bathroom a lot, for a movie character. Price clearly is interested in more than her skills in handling assets.
Connie is Price’s teammate/coworker, and it’s clear they have a past together. She’s depicted as quite uptight and serious and she doesn’t trust easily, but we also never see her either not at work or not shoved in with Renee, who she clearly doesn’t like (clearly because she’s jealous, for obvious reasons).
E is for… Explosions
The fuel truck involved in the chase on the runway gets stuck in the mud and explodes.
Renee’s car–specifically said to be a rental car–explodes during her super obvious long walk up to it, though it’s later revealed that she used a remote to do it herself.
Price rigs the Boston warehouse to explode.
F is for… Flashbacks
No flashbacks here, though they may have helped clarify people’s relationships.
G is for… Guns
A remote controlled sniper rifle is used to attack the courthouse.
In Pittsburgh there is a sniper.
Price and Sonny have a shootout with the bad guys in the Boston warehouse building.
The climax in Montreal is one giant shootout.
H is for… Helicopters
Despite not one but two helicopters on the dvd cover, there is not a single helicopter in this film. Very disappointing.
I is for… Improvisation
In the beginning Blue Leisure Suit Man uses his suitcase as a sort of battering ram to get through the police when escaping the bathroom.
Elkert is pretty slick using his toupee as a way to hide his safety deposit box key.
While in Jerry’s sporting goods store, Price uses a convenient fishtank as an interrogation tool.
Price uses one of his restaurant’s tables as a projectile.
In Boston Price uses a fire escape as cover and also a way to launch himself at the disguised Sonny.
J is for… Jumping through Solid Objects
In a surprising attempt at real physics for an action movie, the Cleaner makes sure to shoot out the window first, and then make his kill shot. Glass deflects bullets. The glass depicted in the courthouse actually looks like glass, too, not that shattery stuff usually used in movies.
K is for… Kill Count
Sonny shoots a thug, but it’s unclear if Price kills anyone. It doesn’t appear that he does.
L is for… Limitations
Price is unsure if there is actually a break in his system or not.
Renee is a loose cannon that he cannot trust.
Daedalus is a complicated system, and Price is unsure if Elkert dropped or not.
Also, Price is grieving Sonny’s death.
M is for… Motivation
Price needs Elkert’s money to get out of debt and pay his team.
Renee is in it for the money.
Elkert wants to be free from the target on his head (and preferably with his money).
Yoesky wants Elkert dead.
Turgenson wants to get back at Powell, and get the money. He is also going to nail Sonny if he didn’t penetrate the system.
As the film progresses, Price wants to find Elkert.
N is for… Negotiation
Elkert will pay Price one million dollars for the use of the Daedalus network. Price comes back with he needs five million, plus half of the money Elkert stole to go to the charity of his choice.
Powell wants Elkert, and he tells Price he has a lot to lose. Price tells Powell that the only losers will be the marks he ran under for him. “On a need to know basis, there’s some pretty important people who’d rather not be known.”
Renee wants to get to Elkert and needs Price’s help, and in exchange she’ll make sure Price gets his money.
O is for… One Liners
“Do you know who I am?”
Price: Ed McMahon and the Prize Patrol?
“Where’s my money?”
Price: Behind door number one, asshole.
Price: I’ve got to install a revolving door.
Price: Is this pillow talk, Sam?
Price: Can we be adults for two seconds here?
Price: At least you two didn’t strangle each other.
Renee: Where are we going?
Price: If I told you we wouldn’t be safe.
P is for… Profession
Price is a work for hire on a need to know basis. He uses his restaurant, The Breezes, as a cover for his Daedalus protection system. He does two freebies for the NSA in exchange for access to the network.
He graduated from the FBI academy in ‘81 at the top of his class, and was the youngest special protection agent in division history. He has eight commendations, including a Presidential citation. He was suspended twice for insubordination, and the NSA picked him up to use in East Germany.
He devised the Daedalus system, the most sophisticated protection system in the world. The system is used for hiding western agents who’d been exposed. He went private after the wall came down, and has a deal with the NSA.
He’s also handsome, suave, and a good hand-to-hand fighter.
Q is for… Quagmire
Never once did I feel as if Price was outgunned or put in a truly precarious position.
R is for… Reality, or Suspension of Disbelief
I’m sure something similar to the Daedalus network exists, especially now.
There weren’t any stunts or anything that seemed outlandish.
S is for… Sidekicks
For the Daedalus network:
Kevin runs transportation.
Connie runs the comm lines.
Charlie seems to work mostly hands-on with the network, and does the route permutations.
Moretti is called in for his knowledge of bank systems so they can pinpoint Elkert’s bank.
T is for… Technology
The Cleaner uses night vision goggles.
The Daedalus network uses a Mersenne prime algorithm that makes it hard to use shadow tracking. “There is a handheld unit with an encrypted flash memory card, and there are more than 150 links along the way when hiding someone. Daedalus uses the least used providers in the NSA system who won’t know what it is all about, but are looking for a trigger code, a break in the chain, an infiltrator that needs to be disposed of. If there is a match, he gives up a new envelope. He’ll get birth certificates, passports, subscriptions. Then on to the next link.” There are also static drops, using safes with codes, and if the wrong code is used, the safe explodes. “If he gets through without mistakes, his trail will forever be erased. He’ll be a ghost.” (This was all Price explicating.)
Dental records are used to confirm Sonny’s death, but they say there are only a few teeth, which doesn’t seem like enough to confirm a death. Guess it makes sense considering Sonny’s not actually dead.
The screen on the Daedalus handheld unit must be rubbed, which leaves DNA behind.
Sonny keeps tabs on Price by putting a tracker in a necklace he gives him.
An email with a Trojan is sent.
U is for… Unexpected Romance
As if the romance between Price and Renee isn’t telegraphed the moment she shows up, particularly with their little wine scene, and then the fake kiss to avoid being seen by the police car. Then of course the weird love scene Price fantasizes about. Gross.
V is for… Vehicles as Weapons
There really aren’t many vehicles in the film, other than the chase scene on the runway, where the fuel truck pushes against the pickup truck.
W is for… Winning
Price’s team tracks down Elkert, and sends an email with a Trojan virus, alerting everyone to his location in Montreal.
Renee kills Elkert, Turgenson is arrested, and Powell’s corruption is exposed by Price.
Five million dollars gets deposited Connie’s, Kevin’s, and Charlie’s accounts, Daedalus is dismantled, and Price and Renee ride off into the sunset, so to speak.
X is for… X-rays, or Maybe You Should See A Doctor
Renee treats Price for a gash on his head, but other than that he seems fine.
Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem
Everyone seems to know each other–it’s a small world. Strange bedfellows and all that.
Z is for… Zone, In The
Every time any part of Daedalus is explained, Price starts narrating like discussing the network is the most fun thing for him.
This movie is a confused mess, and I’m sorry I can’t do it more justice. There are a lot of things that are enjoyable, including Lundgren and his team, but concisely outlining the story is challenging. There isn’t even a Wiki page to use for guidance, nor an IMFDB page. It’s not even close to the least watchable movie I’ve reviewed on this site, it’s just the hardest to explain. As I said before, the bad guys are spread across several people, and it’s hard to narrow down who is doing what.
As far as stray observations are concerned:
There’s some weird Ho Yay between Sonny and Price when Sonny is leaving to be put through Daedalus, but that can be due to them growing up together.
LOL at the overweight Jerry trying to take on Lundgren.
There are a lot of weird quick, circular camera angle changes that are reminiscent of Saw.
There’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat used instead of guns, which was just sort of weird considering everyone was either a bad guy or government agent. Maybe the movie was just showing responsible uses of force by the agents. Then again, in Montreal, no one had any jurisdiction to be shooting anyone else.
The audience really needed to be shown a dry run to properly understand this Daedalus system, not just Price explaining it.
LOL again at Elkert’s shout of, “Kill them. Kill them all!” to incite the melee in Montreal.
Price has facial hair stubble on the dvd cover, but not in the film. It’s like they took a screenshot from another film entirely to use as the cover here.