Pros: Beringer, Hershey, Steve Reevis and Eugene Blackbear plus beautiful scenery
Cons: The moronic voiceover
Late Saturday night, I noticed that a film that I had never heard of was showing on the American Movie Channel. It had a decent cast and so I spent the next three hours watching the two hour film. More about that later.
Set in modern times, the film opens with the escape of three prisoners who head out into what is called the "Oxbow Quadrangle", a rough, mountainess area in Northwest Montana near the Canadian border. The local sheriff, Sheriff Deegan (Kurtwood Smith-"The 70's Show", "24") sends for his former son-in-law, Lewis Gates (Tom Berenger-"Platoon", "October Road") who is the "best damn tracker in the wilderness drunk or sober." Deegan hates Gates because he believes that the latter didn't try hard enough to save Deegan's daughter from drowning in an accident.
Gates sets off into the wilderness to track the escaped prisoners but soon discovers that the three men have been killed although he can't find any bodies. He does see something in the mountain mist but he's not sure what he's seen.
Gates finds an arrow and takes it to a anthropologist, Dr. Lillian Sloan (Barbara Hershey-"The Portrait of a Lady", "Hannah and Her Sisters") to discover the arrow's origin. Dr. Sloan dismisses Gates' discovery as a fraud but tells him that the arrow is a "replica" of a Cheyenne arrow used in the 19th Century.
Gates does some research and believes that he knows who shot the arrow and killed the prisoners. He enlists Dr. Sloan to search for what he believes are a "lost tribe" of Indians.
I'll stop there with the plot except to point out that Gates and Sloan (along with Gates' faithful tracker dog, Zip) have quite an adventure over the next several weeks.
WHAT I LIKED AND DIDN'T CARE FOR
Director, screen writer Tab Murphy (screenwriter of the antimated "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", "Gorillas in the Mist") made a decent film here but made some bad choices. Specifically, the first time director utilized an obnoxious "voiceover" by the uncredited Wilford Brimley to give us "glues" about what was going to happen next. Often the "clues" were misleading and always narration interrupted the flow of the film.
One reason that I found the film implausible is that it is difficult to believe that a group of "North American isolationists" could remain undetected until late in the 20th Century. But, I guess we can suspend our belief with the artistic license of the screenwriter.
The performances by Berenger and Hershey were excellent. Berenger fit the part of the "rugged mountain man" perfectly and doesn't waste time overacting the role. I thought that Hershey did a good job although some of the dialogue given her was a bit cliched. There are two good, realistic performances by Indians in the movie: Steve Reevis portrays the elderly Cheyenne Chief Yellow Wolf (Reevis was in "Dances with Wolves" and "Comanche Moon") and Eugene Blackbear portrays Spotted Elk.
I liked the fact that the Indians spoke no English and therefore communicated through the interpretations of Dr. Sloan. The film gets a little "heavy handed" with its obvious messages at times but I never felt that that aspect went overboard.
The scenery in the film as photographed by Kark Walter Linderlaub ("Independence Day", "Rob Roy") was gorgeous although it was not filmed in Montana.
Overall, the film left me with a pleasant feeling even though it was somewhat predictable.
A LOOSELY RELATED RANT
Earlier, I wrote that I watched this two hour film over a period of three hours. The movie was shown on the AMC network which I loved when it first showed up on my cable. There were no ads on that network for the first few years. Now, however, the network "hooks" you with no ads for twenty minutes and then interrupts the movie every five minutes with ads which it shows over and over ad nauseum. I'm not a prude but by the end of the three hours, I was sick of hearing (and seeing) various "experts" tell me how to extend my sexual performance time, extend part of my anatomy, and go into details that I thought better fitting a sex ed class. My main problem with the long ads and the frequent interruptions is that it totally destroyed the flow of the film. There, I ranted.
I would recommend seeing this film on one of the rental services rather than suffer through AMC's version.