Picks and Pans Review: Off Limits

updated 03/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

While this movie is set in wartime Vietnam and is about a psychotic murderer, its plot and dialogue suggest it was created by someone who never set foot outside Peoria and never even made it inside a police station there. This is a reflection of life as experienced by reading comic books. Willem (Platoon) Dafoe and Gregory (The Cotton Club) Hines play agents for the Army's Criminal Investigations Detachment, stationed in Saigon. They stumble onto a series of murders of prostitutes, with the clues pointing to an American. They proceed to investigate as if they were back on the block, chasing leads down mazelike alleys and even into a Viet Cong cave. Nobody yells out to them, "Hey, guys! There's a war going on here!" But somebody should have. They even refuse an order to go back to the U.S., a plot turn that Vietnam vets may not find totally plausible. Dafoe plays the admittedly impossible character in a wide-eyed frenzy. So it comes off as a joke, not a tragic comment, when he cuddles a woman who is completing her novitiate and says to her, "The whole world is insane." Hines maintains some dignity at least. It's neither Hines's nor Dafoe's fault that they keep bumping into a surly South Vietnamese cop they call Lime Green (because of his kerchief) or that they have to say such lines as "Lime green? Ain't that the color of puke?" Fred (The Right Stuff) Ward plays Hines and Dafoe's boss; Scott (Silverado) Glenn is a gung ho field officer. Newcomer Amanda Pays is the novice who reacts with total calm when she finds Dafoe hiding in her bedroom. Christopher Crowe directed the film, his first feature, and co-wrote it with Jack (Angelo, My Love) Thibeau. The movie, shot in Thailand, does have the distinction of introducing assistant set dresser Panyawadee "Tim" Navarut Na Ayudha and bit actor Tangkaow Taverprungsenukul. Don't ever let anyone tell you that the Southeast Asian film industry isn't full of big names. (R)

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