It is Nomads! A film that demands our attention for several reasons. First, it features Adam Ant. This is not a big deal now, but it was then, when music stars in films was still relatively rare. And it was the first feature film for Pierce Brosnan, then on TV in Remington Steele. And it is the first feature by John McTiernan, who went on to direct Predator, Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October, in which Sean Connery achieved the apex of his late-career gorgeousness [I have researched this]. McTiernan also wrote this story. It also stars Lesley-Anne Down, who is not, to one’s disappointment, Lesley-Ann Warren, but is likely better for this role. A role that, by the way, the majority of IMDb critics agree would be better if it weren’t in the film at all.
We begin with a black and white photo of a hooded eskimo or someone that we will see periodically throughout the film. He is presumably a nomad, going back through time and culture. Then: Lesley-Anne Down! She is a sleep-deprived medical doctor named Flax [like the grain], and she is summoned to the side of a patient. That would be Pierce Brosnan, who is handcuffed to a gurney, freaking out, and spouting gibberish. She thinks she can handle him all by herself, but he breaks free with superhuman strength and whispers something in her ear. I think it was “Be my snooky-pooky,” but I’m not sure. Pierce promptly dies.
Flax goes back to her apartment, where her bedroom is bare but for a dresser and mattress on the floor. So she’s committed to her job and has virtually no social life, apparently. She’s also gorgeous, but badly in need of a serious hair rescue, before her split ends rend her face to hamburger meat. Anyway, she starts having visions of Pierce, and who wouldn’t, really, but these ones are of her seeing the last few months of his life. The majority of the rest of the movie will consist of his story, seen through her visions, with us coming back to her periodically as she continues to go crazy.
So Pierce is Pommier—let’s just call him Pierce—French anthropologist now living in Southern California with his wife, Niki. Although his accent is such that… honestly, I thought he was supposed to be Columbian for over half the movie. He has a beard [which alone constituted the reason I saw this in the theater back when it came out] and is quite lanky. He and his wife traveled all over the world taking pictures, and anthropoligizing, apparently, and now they’re in LA, for some reason. Anyway, some vandals have sprayed some vaguely threatening words on his garage door, and—ooh, inside, too. That was a bit of a creepy moment. And they’ve left some cut-out articles about murders and such, as well as a coupon book for local merchants and a pen that writes in three colors. Enough to unsettle a homeowner. Meanwhile, Flax is visited by her hilariously-permed blonde friend, and learns that whatever Pierce whispered translates as “Cheddar crunchwrap.” No, actually: “They aren’t there.” But WHO isn’t there? That’s what I want to know. WHY are these things so cryptic???
Back with Pierce, he tells his worried wife that he’ll be right up to slip the Brosnan Buster, but he changes his mind and decides to go out instead. I was like: “Is he really just going to leave her upstairs and leave?” but she comes down, and he tells her directly. He goes out and follows the group of punks he saw leaving his place in a shiny black van, only—oh dear, these punks are in their late thirties, if not early forties. Menaced by middle-aged punks in leather. Very troubling. He watches them kill a man, then act all crazy, and go around hanging out here, there, and realizes after quite sometime that they have never slept. He is taking pictures of them, and here comes the one thing I remember about this movie from seeing it years ago—aside from that nothing really happens in it. He’s taking a pic of Ant, who looks this way, looks that, then looks right at Pierce, i.e. he was aware, and posing the whole time. Then Mary Woronov comes and dances on a car while unveiling her rather fearsome teeth. By the way, if you look at the pillar on the extreme right at 38:17, you will clearly see the shadow of the camera setup there.
Meanwhile, Flax is wandering LA, all crazed. Back with Pierce, he intuits that the punks are nomads, moving from party to parking lot and restaurants, able to get away with anything “because they don’t exist.” He soon finds out that they do not show up in any of the pictures he’s taken of them, and we soon learn that they are hostile spirits who bring disaster and madness, as well as hot meals to the housebound. Now Pierce alternates following them and them following him, and he ends up having a long conversation with a nun who tells him to leave his house and run. Does Pierce? No, he goes home, where he beats up Adam Ant [quite unconvincingly], but the body is gone by the time he goes inside. He gets naked [we do indeed see the Brosnan prize package] and, in the present day, Flax has found Pierce’s house and gets in bed with his wife. By the morning, the wife is convinced that she’s somehow mind-melded with her deceased husband.
By now Pierce thinks that all of LA is a nomad—and this may have been the underlying theme of this movie all along, which, if it is: shitty way to get it across, man. Poor job. Unconvinced. But anyway… Pierce is on the roof of some tall building and the nomads are there, giving him annoying looks [which is pretty much all they do] and he grabs one and throws him off the building. Good moment number two: the guy stares at him and smiles in a crazed way as he falls. This is [almost] the last we see of Pierce in the film, so whether he was arrested for throwing a guy off a building or whatever, we have no idea how he ended up in the hospital.
By the way, this is the ending, but it doesn’t seem strong enough to even merit a “spoiler,” and frankly, you should probably understand what a fizzle you’re in for if you watch this. Flax is now good buds with Pierce’s wife, and it would appear that her friend with the blonde perm meets an ignominious fate at the hands of les nomades. Then the nomads try to invade their house, and they pack up and leave, heading off into the woods. As they drive, they are passed by a biker, and when they flash their pussies at him* he turns around, and: It’s PIERCE! He’s now a nasty nomad, with a lot of leather and one long earring. So I guess that’s what happens when you’re killed by the nomads. Highly questionable fashion choices are the terrifying result. Anyway, Flax, seemingly, gets away. The end.
Surprisingly, it’s kind of intriguing and fun, despite the fact that pretty much nothing happens. It’s especially welcome if you love the 80s, and it remains just intriguing enough to keep you interested. It’s only afterward that you realize that pretty much nothing happens for the entire movie, but even so, you don’t quite mind. Afterward, you think back on it, as many of my aforementioned IMDb peeps, and you realize that there really is NO reason for Lesley-Anne Down’s character to be in the film at all. She adds nothing, doesn’t affect the main plot in any way, and could be entirely taken out with barely any effect. And how many lead roles can you say that about? She also gets top billing, over Pierce.
Other than that? Not a whole lot. It’s intriguing, but not that creepy, there’s surprisingly little violence, we get very few answers to our central mystery… yet it remains watchable. I can’t really tell you that you SHOULD watch it, but if you do, you’ll probably be mildly amused. And that’s really the best I can do for you at this point.
*This part does not happen.
If you like all things 80s and don’t really mind that nothing happens for the duration.