Friday October 10, 1997
"Most Wanted" is nonsense on what looks to be a $30-million, maybe $40-million budget. Great-looking sets, intricately staged stunts, elegantly moody photography, spectacular fireball explosions, big crowd scenes and not a nanosecond of plausibility--even by the low standards of the contemporary Hollywood action-thriller.
Stop me if you hear something that rings true here. Wayans plays Sgt. James Dunn, a wrongly imprisoned Marine sniper who is freed by a covert military team and given the choice of returning to the gallows or being the triggerman in an assassination. He chooses the latter, but before he can get a shot off at his intended target, an industrialist with close ties to the White House, a bullet rips through the chest of the first lady, who is standing next to the man.
Suddenly, Dunn is being chased all over Los Angeles by the LAPD, the FBI, the CIA, members of his own covert team, and possibly, the Cookie Monster. It's often too dark to tell. Wayans is better known to most of us as one of the creative talents behind TV's "In Living Color," but this is no joke. "Most Wanted," and most particularly, Dunn, are dead serious, and director David Glenn Hogan stages every ludicrous scene as if he were dramatizing historical events.
Instead, he's dramatizing material that makes you wonder which Web site Wayans was on. The story has the first lady's campaign for veterans' rights running her afoul of a billionaire biotechnology mogul (Robert Culp) and the sadistic rogue general (Jon Voight) he's paying to cover up a lethal biochemical test done with unsuspecting soldiers. Where's the Toxic Avenger when you need him? Wayans has fashioned for himself the role of a silent superhero, a brooding tough guy with an arsenal of techno-guerrilla skills.
He can break into guarded mansions and secured computer systems with equal ease. He can outrun mobs and fusillades of bullets. He's a martial arts expert and can leap tall buildings--or at least leap between them--in a single bound. What he can't do is hold the screen.
Wayans has great looks and size, but he has no interior presence. There is no weight to his character, and even his voice. Even when he's threatening someone, he sounds like a student who's been asked to raise his voice in class.
The performances are all best described as deadpan. As the deputy CIA director, Paul Sorvino looks as if he'd rather be singing opera, and Voight, affecting a terrible southern accent, has the rigid manner of someone who's just had back surgery.
Finally, as the obligatory ally, an eyewitness who can prove Dunn's innocence, Jill Hennessy has little to do other than pester him about what to do next. But she looks great asking.
Most Wanted, 1997. R, for violence and language. New Line Cinema presents an Ivory Way production of a David Glenn Hogan film. Directed by David Glenn Hogan. Written by Keenen Ivory Wayans. Produced by Eric L. Gold. Executive producers Keenen Ivory Wayans, Tony Mark. Music by Paul Buckmaster. Costumes by Ileane Meltzer. Edited by Michael J. Duthie, Mark Helfrich. Production designer Jean-Philippe Carp. Director of photography Marc Reshovsky. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. Keenen Ivory Wayans as James Dunn. Jon Voight as Casey/Woodward. Jill Hennessy as Victoria Constanini. Paul Sorvino as Ken Rackmill. Robert Culp as Donald Mickhart. Eric Roberts as Spencer.