By People Staff
December 12, 1983 12:00 PM

People who like to read Robert Ludlum’s espionage novels are people who like to unravel masses of tangled string. From page to page, it is always difficult to tell who is alive or dead, not to mention whose side they are or were on. Chronic complication may be one reason this is the first of Ludlum’s 13 novels to be made into a movie; most people who see it should have the plot figured out by, say, mid-1987. Burt Lancaster seems to be a CIA chief. John Hurt seems to be a CIA agent (though he has a British accent and keeps calling himself an FBI agent). Rutger Hauer seems to be an American talk-show host, though he’s as convincing in the part as Don Meredith would be playing a West German chancellor. Dennis Hopper, Chris Sarandon, Craig T. Nelson, Helen Shaver and Cassie Yates seem to be traitors ripe for exposure by Hauer, Hurt and Lancaster. The big showdown takes place at a weekend party at Hauer’s house in Los Angeles. Afterward, Hauer delivers what seems to be a sermon on the evils of watching TV. Are you following all this? In his first film since Convoy in 1978, director Sam Peckinpah gets to engage in some characteristically violent scenes at the end. But this is perhaps his least idiosyncratic and least entertaining movie; it’s run-of-the-mill spy stuff at best. (R)