Picks and Pans Review: Iron Maze

updated 11/11/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/11/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Jeff Fahey, Bridget Fonda

Ready for Rashomon in a Pennsylvania mill town? A young Japanese millionaire is found badly beaten and left for dead in the empty steel mill he planned to tear down and replace with an amusement park. Who tried to whack him? Obvious suspects include Jeff (Impulse) Fahey, playing an ex-steelworker turned bellhop, and Bridget (Godfather III) Fonda, the entrepreneur's American wife who, since arriving in town, has been doing the nasty on pool tables and in cars with Fahey.

As these two each tell the police radically different versions of what happened, it becomes clear that director Hiroaki (Twilight of the Cockroaches) Yoshida has been inspired by fellow Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's classic 1950 whydunit, Rashomon. In that movie, Kurosawa masterfully showed how an incident in the woods could appear to be a rape, a robbery or a seduction—depending upon which participant was telling the tale.

In Iron Maze, the Japanese and American characters' misunderstandings and misconnections come as much from emotional misreadings as from cultural differences. The idea is a good one, but the telling is too tidy and predictable. This is a small movie, better suited to video than the big screen. As for the performances, Japanese star Hiro Murakami seems merely petulant as the businessman. Fahey, weighted down by skeins of useless hair, overplays his role, while Fonda, who showed real sass and sexy charm in Scandal and Strapless, underplays hers. (R)

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