The Presidio (film)

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The Presidio
The Presidio (1988).cover.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter Hyams
Produced by D. Constantine Conte
Written by Larry Ferguson
Music by Bruce Broughton
Cinematography Peter Hyams
Edited by Diane Adler
Beau Barthel-Blair
James Mitchell
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • June 10, 1988 (1988-06-10)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $20 million

The Presidio is a 1988 American crime drama film directed by Peter Hyams and starring Sean Connery and Mark Harmon. Hyams also handled the cinematography and the score was composed by Bruce Broughton.


At the Presidio Army base in San Francisco, MP Patti Jean Lynch (Jenette Goldstein) is shot dead while investigating a break-in on the base, and two San Francisco Police officers are killed in the getaway. Jay Austin (Mark Harmon), a San Francisco police inspector, is sent to investigate, he clashes with Lieutenant Colonel Alan Caldwell (Sean Connery), the base Provost Marshal.

Years ago, Austin and Lynch were partners while serving as MPs and Caldwell was their commanding officer. When Austin arrested Lieutenant Colonel Paul Lawrence (Dana Gladstone), Caldwell did not support him; in the aftermath, Austin was demoted and decided to leave the army. Austin and Caldwell share a dislike for one another.

The murder investigation casts suspicion on Lawrence, as Lynch was killed with a Tokarev, a Russian pistol. Lawrence is the registered owner of a Tokarev, but claims he lost it in a poker game. Austin also learns that the getaway car used by Lynch's killer was registered to a civilian named Arthur Peale (Mark Blum), who is wealthy and owns a holding company that, in turn, owns other companies.

Austin tries to question Lawrence about the Tokarev, but Caldwell intervenes, this fuels Austin's suspicions that Caldwell will do anything to protect a fellow officer from civilian authorities, even if he is a killer. Recognizing that part of the case is under Caldwell's jurisdiction at the Presidio and part is under Austin's jurisdiction in San Francisco, they uneasily team up to investigate the case. Caldwell states that if the Tokarev bullet that killed Lynch were to match a bullet fired earlier from Lawrence's Tokarev at the Presidio firing range, then Caldwell will arrange for Lawrence to surrender to Austin for arrest; in the meantime, Caldwell and Austin visit Peale, who claims his car was simply stolen and has an alibi for the night Lynch was shot. Caldwell, though, noticed Vietnam-era paraphernalia in Peale's office. Using his own contacts, Caldwell learns that Peale was previously in the CIA, and a spy and military advisor in Vietnam at the same time Lawrence was there as an officer, it becomes clear that Lawrence and Peale knew each other.

Austin gets the ballistics report back on the Tokarev, which confirms that Lawrence's gun killed Lynch. Ignoring his agreement with Caldwell, Austin corners Lawrence when he leaves the Presidio, resulting in a lengthy footchase through San Francisco's Chinatown. Ultimately, Lawrence is killed in a hit and run. Caldwell is furious that Austin disregarded their agreement. Compounding their past tension, Caldwell is also upset that Austin is dating his daughter Donna (Meg Ryan), their relationship is rocky, with Donna alternately teasing and pushing Austin away. Caldwell confides in his friend, retired Sergeant Major Ross Maclure (Jack Warden), who runs the Presidio's war museum, it is revealed in backstory that Caldwell was Maclure's lieutenant during the Vietnam War. Caldwell was very green and relied heavily on Maclure; in one sequence, Maclure saved an injured Caldwell and attacked a Vietcong platoon waiting to ambush American soldiers, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. In various scenes, Caldwell's close friendship and affection for Maclure is demonstrated.

Caldwell and Austin both figure out that the killer at the Presidio was trying to break into a storeroom to retrieve a bottle of spring water that was delivered earlier that day. Following that lead to the water company which delivered the water, Austin gets the name of the driver who delivered the water, George Spota (James Hooks Reynolds). Caldwell recognizes the name as someone who served under Lawrence in Vietnam. Austin confirms that Spota's car hit and killed Lawrence during their footchase, and Caldwell learns that the water company Spota works for is owned by Arthur Peale, thus confirming that Spota, Peale, and Lawrence were working together. Austin and Caldwell follow Spota during his daily water deliveries. Spota makes a delivery to Travis Air Force Base. Under surveillance from Austin and Caldwell, Spota picks up a bottle of water that was transported to the Air Force base from the Philippines.

Austin and Caldwell follow Spota and the bottle of water back to the water company. Unsure what is in the water bottle that makes it so valuable, Austin and Caldwell see the edges of the conspiracy come together. Spota, Lawrence, and Peale all knew each other in Vietnam. Spota apparently picked up a delivery of water from the Philippines, but accidentally left that water bottle in the storeroom at the Presidio. When he realized his mistake, he went back to retrieve it, but Lynch surprised him during the break-in, and he shot her.

Just as they figure this out, they see Maclure drive up to the water company, with a terrible realization, Caldwell figures out that Peale and Lawrence would have needed someone like Maclure to carry out the smuggling, because Maclure had excellent contacts within the US military in Asia. Inside the water company, Spota and Peale open the water bottle that came from the Philippines, revealing that diamonds were smuggled inside--the diamonds being invisible in the clear water. Maclure comes in and surprises them by holding a gun. Peale reveals that Lawrence was blackmailing Maclure about something Maclure did while in Vietnam. Peale tries to convince Maclure to let the smuggling operation continue, but Maclure is disgusted with himself and heartbroken over the death of Lynch, whom he knew, he says the smuggling must stop, but then is stripped of his gun by Peale's men. Just as Peale is about to kill Maclure, Caldwell and Austin enter the water company to save him. A gun fight ensues, during which Peale and his men are killed, and Maclure is fatally wounded.

Caldwell asks Austin to delay his police report by 48 hours to give Caldwell time to bury Maclure with his honor intact. Austin agrees and the final scene is at a military cemetery where Caldwell tearfully eulogizes Maclure, at the end of the film, Caldwell reconciles with Donna and grudgingly admits Austin into the family.


Originally intended to star Lee Marvin and Jeff Bridges, with direction by Tony Scott, but Marvin backed out after intestinal surgery, taking his health seriously; Gene Hackman was then approached to take over Marvin's role, but declined. As a result, Bridges also left. Don Johnson was approached, but could not accept due to scheduling difficulties with Miami Vice.[citation needed]

Kevin Costner was actually signed for Mark Harmon's part before departing the project (much to the disappointment of Connery, who had hoped to reteam with his co-star from The Untouchables.)[citation needed]


The Presidio received mixed reviews from critics, as the film holds a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Box office[edit]

The film debuted at number four,[1] and grossed a total of $20,036,242 in the United States.


External links[edit]