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Case Number 06220

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Pursued (2004)

Sony // 2004 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // February 18th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge Mitchell Hattaway advises to run for your life.

The Charge

When it comes to thrills and suspense, this headhunter is making an offer you can't refuse.

Opening Statement

Pursued is another slice of straight-to-video cheese courtesy of actor/producer Andrew Stevens. That's right—the man who brought you Night Eyes and countless other examples of after hours Cinemax programming is responsible for this piece of junk. That pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

Facts of the Case

Vincent Palmer (Christian Slater, 3000 Miles to Graceland) is a corporate headhunter who will go to any lengths—including murder—to get his man. Ben Keats (Gil Bellows, Ally McBeal) is a corporate executive whose new Viztrax biological tracking system is sure to put his company on the map. Vincent is hired to coerce Ben into signing with a rival firm, and Ben soon finds his life, as well as the lives of his wife and young daughter, in jeopardy.

The Evidence

What we have here is another example of the Idiot Plot; Pursued would be over in about fifteen minutes if any of the characters stopped to think about what's going on. I mean, really, if some creepy dude shows up everywhere you go, forges documents under your name, installs surveillance equipment in your house, and threatens your family, wouldn't you call the police? I would, too, but Ben Keats doesn't bother to do that. What does Ben do? Nothing. Well, he does contact Robert Langford (Scott Hylands, Decoy), an over-the-hill security consultant, but Langford's not too bright, either. Langford comes to the Viztrax offices with a couple of graphs and pie charts, looks into the camera, and gives an ominous, portentous speech about personal privacy in the digital age, then drops out of the film for an hour. Langford doesn't even bother to sweep Keats's home or office for surveillance equipment, and I though that would be the first thing he'd do. Emily (Estella Warren, Driven), Keats's wife, isn't too swift, either. She doesn't find it suspicious that Vincent knows exactly who she is when he tracks her down in a bookstore, nor does she think it's strange when he suddenly shows up at her daughter's equestrian event a few days later. Hell, she doesn't even find it odd that Vincent not only knows that she's cheated on her husband, but knows the name of the guy she slept with, too.

Thing is, I'm not sure how Vincent manages to gather all of this information. Google searches, maybe? That's my best guess, considering that he spends a lot of time in an abandoned warehouse staring at a bank of computer screens. (I'll give Vincent props in the real estate department; it's kinda hard to find abandoned warehouses with both DSL service and electricity.) Or maybe he's psychic. He'd pretty much have to be to know the whole deal with the startled horse is going to work (don't ask—it's not worth it). The plot hinges on this guy's ability to gather any piece of information he might need, but we're never given any clue as to how he pulls it off. Sorry, but I'm not willing to accept that.

Here are a few other things I don't quite understand. Is it actually possible to forge corporate documents simply by cutting and pasting them on a computer? Do people no longer physically sign them? Why would a sign warning people about a washed-out riding trail be posted right next to the spot where the trail is washed-out? Wouldn't signs be posted on each end of the trail? How could Vincent break into the home of a billionaire and install surveillance equipment? What billionaire doesn't have a home security system? (Oh, sorry, forgot to mention this part: Viztrax's research is being funded by a billionaire named Franklin [Michael Clarke Duncan, See Spot Run], who just happens to have an inoperable brain tumor.) I mean, really, Franklin's got an estate the size of Xanadu and there's not a camera, motion detector, or alarm to be found? Please. And why doesn't Franklin wake up when Vincent's two feet from him away rambling around in his desk, or when Vincent presses the gun barrel against his head? Where's the nurse who's always with Franklin? When the police arrest Keats for assaulting Vincent at Franklin's funeral, why doesn't Keats tell them Vincent killed Franklin? What's the exact nature of the Viztrax system? Would a tracking system that's ingested in liquid form actually work? Keats and Franklin think it will be useful in helping locate abducted children, but how is that possible? How does the tracking computer distinguish between the various people who have used Viztrax? If several million people are using it, how do you pinpoint one? How often does it need to be ingested? Is it flushed out in urine? Will it leach out in sweat? Say you get thirsty and have something to drink—does that dilute it? How does it taste? Would it make a good Sno-Cone flavor? I can kinda, sorta see a human tracking system working (think about Total Recall), but not in a liquid form. Of course, for the purposes of this story it only has to work well enough for Keats to be able to track Vincent, but I couldn't stop myself from questioning its effectiveness.

One more thing before we move on. Vincent takes pills to treat his "psychotic anxiety and agitated depression." At one point Vincent, who has told Keats the medication is for ulcers, drops the small tin containing his pills, and Keats picks it up. Keats later invites Vincent to have a drink, and returns the pills. Vincent has slipped some Viztrax into Vincent's drink, but Vincent doesn't take the bait. I don't understand why Keats didn't simply add the Viztrax to the pills. He has a lab at work (it's one of the chemists at Viztrax who tells him what the pills are actually prescribed for), so why not use it to whip up something? Better yet, why not just taint the medication with some type of poison and kill Vincent outright? Jeez, doesn't anybody think anymore?

Oh, yeah, wait—make that two more things before we move on. The ending is a cop-out. What worked in North by Northwest doesn't work here.

Okay, that's enough of that. Let's discuss the acting, although it's nothing to write home about, either. Christian Slater is way over-the-top. Maybe he thought he could stand out by hamming it up, but his performance is laughably bad. And when exactly did he stop sounding like Jack Nicholson and start sounding like Danny Bonaduce? Gil Bellows is the most ineffectual leading man/hero to come along since…well, I can't think of an example, but here he looks and sounds like he's sleepwalking. Estella Warren is nice to look at, but she simply can't act. (I wonder why Andrew Stevens didn't offer Warren's role to his old friend Shannon Tweed; at least that would have guaranteed a couple of shower scenes.) Michael Clarke Duncan comes off best, but then again he doesn't have much screen time; I think he's mainly around because someone was hoping the sound of his voice would lend an air of authority.

As far as the technical side of this release goes, things aren't too bad. The transfer is clean, with fairly decent color saturation and black levels; it's on average with what you'd expect to see from a good transfer of a television series or low-budget film. The audio is okay, although at times the dialogue is pushed a little too forward in the mix, and the only surround action comes during the climactic shootout. There are no extras.

Closing Statement

Pursued is a by-the-numbers thriller, and the numbers just don't add up. Don't waste your time or money on it.

The Verdict

Guilty! But you already that, didn't you?

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 75
Extras: 0
Acting: 50
Story: 50
Judgment: 50

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genres:
• Bad
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb








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