Picks and Pans Review: Promised Land
This film comes to us via Robert Redford's Sundance Institute in Utah, which usually finances movies that wouldn't otherwise get made. Why the institute—or anyone—would produce this turgid, overdone piece of self-involvement is a mystery. The movie consists mostly of brooding. The story—the word overstates the film's dynamics—is about Kiefer (Stand by Me) Sutherland and Jason (Iron Eagle) Gedrick, high school friends who go separate ways. Sutherland drops out of school, runs off and marries druggie Meg (In-nerspace) Ryan. They're a Bonnie and Clyde in training, and now, two years after he left, Sutherland's headed for home and trouble. Gedrick, a former star jock discouraged because he didn't make his college basketball team, quits school and returns home to be a cop. He also frets over the wanderlust of his girlfriend, Tracy Pollan, Michael J. Fox's old Family Ties sweetie (and now his real-life lady). Writer-director Michael Hoffman, a 1979 Rhodes scholar making his first mainstream film, assembled an engaging cast, and the performances are good, Sutherland's especially. But nothing holds the movie together, and it spins out of control. Even a climactic Sutherland-Gedrick confrontation doesn't generate much power because their friendship was never firmly established. Most of the movie is a showcase for striking cinematography by Alexander Gruszynski and Ueli Steiger, with much oblique lighting and sweeping camera movements. It's great to see films—especially about teenagers—that detour off the beaten track, but this one's just all over the road. (R)
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