Review: SHOOT TO KILL (1988) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Review: SHOOT TO KILL (1988)


RATING: 4/5

During the 80s, buddy comedy was a dime a dozen. Some of them were just memorable hits, including 48 HRS (1982), LETHAL WEAPON (1987) and MIDNIGHT RUN (1988). You can add SHOOT TO KILL (also known as DEADLY PURSUIT) into the checklist as one of the best genre movies ever made during that era.




The movie opens solidly with a man is discovered breaking into his own jewellery shop in the middle of the night. When he is being questioned by the local authorities, lead by FBI agent Warren Stantin (Sidney Poitier), the jewellery owner is forced to steal his own diamonds in exchange for his wife, who is being held hostage by a vicious criminal named Steve (Clancy Brown) at home. Warren tries to negotiate a deal with Steve, but he demands to follow his rule under any circumstances. Things get out of hand when Steve ends up killing the family maid, and demands Warren to hand over the diamonds. Unfortunately Steve also kills the jewellery owner's wife anyway, and escapes with the diamonds.

Despite the costly failure, Warren refuses to give up and continues to investigate the whereabouts of Steve until one day he discovers he is hiding among a group of sportsmen disguising as part of their members for jungle trekking into the rugged Pacific Northwest. Steve, of course, plans to kill all of the members except their guide, Sarah (Kirstie Alley), because he needs her to lead him through the wilderness to the Canadian border.

In a race against the time, Warren is forced to team up with Sarah's mountain-man boyfriend Jonathan Knox (Tom Berenger) to pursue Steve. At first both of them doesn't like each other, but they eventually work together to bring down Steve and save Sarah at the same time.

Harv Zimmel, Michael Burton and Daniel Petrie Jr.'s screenplay looks deceptively simple and the basis of the plot is actually nothing new we have never seen before in this kind of genre. But what makes this otherwise a routine genre piece is the slick direction by Roger Spottiswoode, who is best known for editing some of the late Sam Peckinpah's masterpieces including STRAW DOGS (1971) and PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID (1983). Blessed with a razor-sharp editing by George Bowers and Garth Craven, Spottiswoode knows well how to pace his movie with some noteworthy moments including the aforementioned opening scene, the nail-biting scene where Jonathan is struggling to climb up the mountain, and the spectacular finale involving a car chase and a shootout at the ferry.

In addition to that, the plot rises above the occasion with witty dialogues as well as its meticulous narrative that keeps the viewers on the edge of the seat. This is especially evident when the screenwriters brilliantly hides the killer's identity in the dark until he is revealed midway. Then there's great central performances from all the cast. Sidney Poitier, who last acted a decade ago in 1977's A PIECE OF THE ACTION, returns with a solid comeback as the relentless Warren Stantin. He is simply an engaging presence to watch for, especially the way he commands his tough-guy role with such integrity and also doubles up as an exceptional comedian when he pairs up with Tom Berenger. Speaking of Tom Berenger, he is also fun to watch for. The way both of them has constant disagreement against each other because of the nature of their working style (Warren is an arrogant, big-city FBI agent and Jonathan is a roughneck mountain man who doesn't likes to be point around) and they are certainly a joy to watch for. Other supporting actors are equally fantastic, with a perfectly despicable performance by Clancy Brown and a strong female lead by Kirstie Alley.

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