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Movie Review

Shoot to Kill

MPAA Rating: R for unspecified reasons

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teen to Adult
Crime, Drama
1 hr. 55 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Relevant Issues
Box art for “Shoot To Kill”
Featuring: Sidney Poitier, Tom Berenger, Kirstie Alley, Clancy Brown, Frederick Coffin, Richard Masur, Andrew Robinson, Kevin Scannell, Michael MacRae
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Producer: Ron Silverman, Daniel Petrie Jr., Philip Rogers
Distributor: Touchstone/Buena Vista (Disney)

This film’s junky title is misleading. it’s a police action/adventure story with Sidney Poitier (playing a cop, as usual) on the trail of a killer. But what raises it above the norm of that genre in appeal and originality is the “reluctant-buddy” subplot that pairs Poitier with a reclusive wilderness guide (Tom Berenger). The way they play off each other is excellent.

A stone-cold killer (whose identity is not immediately revealed) has stolen two pounds of diamonds and outwitted FBI agent Warren Stantin (Poitier), and is driving toward the Washington-British Columbia border when he sees what appears to be a roadblock (actually the police are just working on a car accident) and turns onto a side road. [“The wicked flee when no man pursueth.”—Prov. 28:1] He then kills a man who’s waiting at a staging point to join a wilderness fishing trip, and adopts the man’s identity. The trips are guided by Jonathan Knox (Berenger) or by his girlfriend Sarah Rennell (Kirstie Alley); today was Sarah’s turn.

Stantin figures out that the killer is among the fishermen, and he forces Knox to guide him in pursuit. The killer (identity still not revealed) stays with the fishing trip, since it gets him closer to the border. Besides being well-acted throughout, the film has outstanding wilderness cinematography in this section. Stantin and Knox—both tough and fearless, but with very different skill sets—must learn to work as a team and take advantage of each other’s strengths.

Content Warnings: There are several on-screen killings and quite a bit of profanity. There’s no actual sexual content, but the killer sometimes “invades the body space” of a female hostage in a suggestive way. And there are vulgarisms: a couple of dirty jokes, and a kidding reference to homosexuality that arises out of Knox’ and Stantin’s “closeness” while waiting out a storm in a snow cave.

The hazards of the wilderness—sheer cliffs, a suspended gondola, a grizzly—will be thrilling, scary or ho-hum depending on what you’re used to. The ending is a little hokey, and the use of repetitive themes is overdone, but I still recommend this film for those who like cop stories.

To me, the forced cooperation element between Stantin and Knox is the film’s most interesting and worthwhile aspect. The following year, director Roger Spottiswoode teamed up an even more unlikely pair in pursuit of a killer: Tom Hanks and a slobbering French Mastiff in “Turner and Hooch.” Then, he paired Estelle Getty (TV’s “Golden Girls”) with Sylvester Stallone in “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.” [Seems to be a pattern emerging there.] The Body of Christ faces a similar task: each believer is a “member” of that body, with something to contribute; no two members are alike, but all the members need each other (I Cor. 12).

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