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Television Reviews : Rite of Passage for a Rookie Cop

“Terror on Highway 91" (Channels 2 and 8 at 9 tonight) is an assembly-line presentation of a young cop’s exposure of corruption and brutality within the sheriff’s department of a small Southern county.

There aren’t many surprises here. At the beginning of the film, a flashback framing device informs us that there’s trouble, right here in Cade County, and the examples of that trouble parade across the screen for most of the running time of the film. It’s difficult for us to share the gradual disillusionment of rookie cop Clay Nelson (Ricky Schroder) when we’re never allowed to share the initial illusion.

Writer Stuart Schoffman also neglects to explain why Clay, who joins the sheriff’s department right out of high school, is impervious to the corruption that affects everyone else in the department. Apparently it’s because Clay is played by Schroder, and we all know that Schroder’s a good guy.

Near the end, Schoffman hints that Clay too might be criminally culpable; he isn’t granted immunity in exchange for his testimony. But this is simply forgotten by the next (and final) scene, when the miscreants are led out of court while Clay watches from the sidelines.

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Although the roles are made out of cardboard, George Dzundza’s performance as the dictatorial sheriff adds a fine-grained texture that isn’t in the script. Schroder is less successful at deepening his role, but he does go through his good guy routine with conviction.

Jerry Jameson’s direction seemed listless on the review tape, but this may have been due to the condition of the rough cut which was sent to reviewers.


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