In 1935, five men from the U.S. Cavalry are ordered to drive hundreds of horses to Mexico for extermination as part of a plan to modernize the army. Gen. Douglas MacArthur has deemed the cavalry unnecessary in a new military world built around tanks and other armored vehicles.
But after witnessing the unconscionable mass slaughter of some of their prized animals, the five soldiers boldly decide to rescue the remaining 400 horses. What follows is a lengthy escape stretching from Mexico to Canada with the U.S. Army in pursuit of these idealistic renegades.
It's not at all surprising that HBO decided to turn this fascinating real-life scenario into a made-for-TV movie entitled "In Pursuit of Honor." Revolving around some very human issues and emotions such as honor, compassion, courage and tradition, it's an action-friendly story with more than a few built-in dramatic advantages.
What is surprising is that the cable network has thoroughly failed in its efforts to parlay this choice material into a soul-stirring drama or even a breezy action-adventure flick. Critically, the film's skin-deep cavalry men rarely connect emotionally with each other, their horses or the military tradition they supposedly value. A strong sense of moral commitment and passion is missing in these soldiers who risk their lives to save their horses.
The film's acting seems less of a problem than its shallow script and toothless direction. As rebellious cavalry officers, Don Johnson and Craig Sheffer simply aren't armed with the type of meaningful dialogue that would allow their characters full bloom.
* "In Pursuit of Honor" premieres on HBO tonight at 8.