Long before Thomas Harris invented Hannibal Lecter, he invented Michael Lander, a disgruntled Vietnam Vet who is
nearly psychotic because of the torture he went through as a POW in the hands of the North Vietnamese and the loss of his wife as a result of his resultant problems reintegrating in society after the war. He is finally driven psychotic when he catches his wife riding her lover during woman-on-top sex, and the lover runs out of the house after beating Michael senseless.
Michael approaches a Muslim terrorist group and offers to use his job as a dirigible pilot for the Aldrich Rubber Company to crash its blimp into the Super Bowl at New Orleans, and fire a bomb carrying hundreds of thousands of rifle darts into the stadium, which will kill in excess of 50,000 people in one stroke.
The only person who can stop him is an Israeli government assassin, Major Kabakov and his partner, Lt. Mochevski. Kabakov, assisted by FBI Agent Corley, only know that a man who may be American, has met with a Black September-affiliated terrorist group, which they discovered from a tape made in advance, captured during a raid by the Israelis on one of the group's safehouses, that the terrorists will "begin the year with violence." So they not only have to try to figure out what the event is, but where it is happening and how, and hopefully before it's too late.
We watch in fascination as Lander's plan goes through with inexorable precision toward its deadly outcome, assisted by Faisal and Dahlia, a woman who has a rare position of authority in the Black September terrorist organization. Some events become known to Kabakov, who eventually comes to the conclusion that the target will be the Super Bowl, in view of the statement in the terrorist announcement that was captured early.
The book and the movie have several differences. Kabakov dies in the book, Mochevski dies in the film. In the movie, Muslim terrorist Faisal dies about 1/2 way through, but in the book he lives and is taken to Israel to stand trial. The book has the Super Bowl in New Orleans; the movie has it in Miami. The book has Kabakov and his doctor Rachel Bowman enter into a love affair; the affair does not happen in the movie. The book used "Aldrich" for the company Lander worked for; in the movie, Goodyear actually approved use of their name and their blimp in the movie. Not related to the 1960 Mario Bava horror classic.
- Anti-Hero - Kabakov. In the book, Corley mentions to Kabakov how it's clear to him that Kabakov wouldn't care what he had to do to stop Fasil: "Warn me in advance? Warn me, my ass! You'd have sent me a postcard from fucking Tel Aviv, saying 'sorry about the crater and the tidal wave!'"
- Corley finds out that Kabakov had a hand in an incident that drove Dahlia into becoming a Palestinian terrorist.
- Anyone Can Die - Significant characters die in the book and the movie
- As Himself - Miami Dolphins football team owner Joe Robbie has a small part in the film, as do CBS commentators Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier.
- The Film of the Book
- Badass Israeli - Major Kabakov
- The Determinator - Lander. At times he seems more intent on proving himself than his terrorist allies.
- Evil Tastes Good - In the book, Fasil is sitting in a place waiting, eating a piece of rich Swiss chocolate, then sensuously licking the melted chocolate off his fingers, and realizing if the Israelis ever found out his passionate love of high-quality chocolate they might be able to discover where he is.
- Hero Antagonist - Kabakov again.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique - In the book Major Kabakov says to his assistant Mochevski, when a man they are questioning won't talk, "I'm going to step outside for a moment. Perhaps the Captain would like some refreshments. Call me when he has finished eating his testicles."
- Room Disservice
- Shell-Shocked Veteran - Lander is a veteran of The Vietnam War, and already unhinged by the beginning of the bombing plot.
- Shoot the Money - Much of the footage used was shot during Super Bowl X.
- Super Bowl - The movie came out just as the game was becoming a national "holiday". Joe Robbie himself says to Kabakov "Cancel the Super Bowl? That's like cancelling Christmas!"
- Take Me Out At the Ball Game
- Villain Protagonist - Fasil and Dahlia, who are working to make Lander's plan work.