Picks and Pans Review: Shadow of the Wolf

updated 03/22/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/22/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

Lou Diamond Phillips, Jennifer Tilly, Toshiro Mifune, a big polar bear

Ostensibly an action epic set among the Inuit Eskimos of Northern Canada, this often exciting but self-conscious film could be called Dances with Political Correctness. French director Jacques Dorfmann dwells on sexism, white Americans' exploitation of native peoples and man's despoiling of nature. And while he alludes to the Inuits' own racial prejudices and their ethnocentrism, he also buys into their mythology—lock, stock and dying chief turning into a falcon.

Phillips, who seems to be inheriting the Anthony Quinn mantle as Hollywood's omni-ethnic actor, is an Inuit chief's rebellious young son who believes his father, the venerable Japanese star Mifune, is too conciliatory toward the Inuits' while, French-Canadian oppressors. So he takes his sweetie, Tilly, upon whom the rutting Mifune has also cast a randy eye, and drags her off to live away from their tribal village.

While Phillips runs through his entire repertoire of acting tricks, most of them variations on looking wide-eyed, the film's most impressive performer is the polar bear—moonlighting from the Moscow Circus. In the movie's most involving scene, it attacks Phillips after first taking the roof off his igloo like someone ripping off the top of a Pringles can. (PG-13)

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