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Most Wanted

By Devin D. O'Leary

OCTOBER 20, 1997:  There are perks to being a film critic. No, I'm not talking about all the free movie passes and Flubber pens. I'm talking about that certain sadistic glee I get from knowing that: A) the movie I'm going to see will be particularly bad; and B) I'm gonna get to trash it the very next day in a review.

Take, for example, Keenan Ivory Wayans' new flick, Most Wanted. First of all, what's the deal with Wayans? Is he a comedian? A talk-show host? A big, buff action hero? Well, you can add "screenwriter" to the list, because--in addition to starring in it--Wayans actually wrote Most Wanted. In this run-and-shoot action flick, Wayans plays Sgt. James Dunn, a U.S. Marine who (sort of) accidentally kills his commanding officer and is given the death penalty. Instead of being sent to death row, Dunn is broken out of jail and basically blackmailed into becoming an assassin for a secret government organization (shades of La Femme Nikita). With no other choice, Dunn complies and is immediately sent on his first mission by waxy-faced Lt. Colonel Grant Casey (Jon Voight, who apparently by law must now appear as the villain in every movie). Dunn is to assassinate some evil corporate-type (played by the evil actor-type Robert Culp). Naturally, something goes wrong and (holy Toledo!) the First Lady is plugged instead. Framed for a murder he didn't commit, Dunn must now go on the run and try to flush out the parties responsible for filling the president's wife full of lead. Of course it takes no detective work to figure out that evil Jon Voight and evil Robert Culp are behind the whole thing. (Never mind why, it's all pretty silly and pretty irrelevant.)

Complicating matters for our hunted hero is the fact that a $10-million bounty has just been placed on his head, and everybody in America is out to collect. Easing matters for our hero is the fact that a sexy, young doctor (Jill Hennessy) accidentally videotaped the assassination and can prove his innocence. Dunn hooks up with the doc (who's now also a target of governmental baddies), and the two run around L.A. for a couple hours trying to figure out what the hell's going on. Amazingly enough, the two never find time to fall in love. Hollywood, of late, seems to have pushed out the lame romance angle from action movies in order to pack in more lame explosions. Why, just a couple weeks ago, I watched a hunky military type and a sexy, young doctor not quite get around to making kissy-face in The Peacemaker. The last action movie I can even recall in which the hero and heroine sucked face was Speed--and those two hardly even made eye contact until the last shot of the film.

In the realm of big, dumb action movies, Most Wanted is big, dumb and, well, an action movie. In the end, the good guy wins, the bad guys are all shot between the eyes and the audience is prevailed upon to cheer a couple lazy taglines. (I think union regs now require scriptwriters to shoehorn the phrases "I got caught in traffic" and "Payback's a bitch" into every action film they write.) Of course, none of this really amounts to criticism. Insulting this movie is like calling a McDonald's hamburger "bland" or a Kenny G album "boring." If you're buying a ticket to a Keenan Ivory Wayans movie, I think you know what you're getting into.

--Devin D. O'Leary


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