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Pursued
cast: Christian Slater, Gil Bellows, Estella Warren, Saul Rubinek, and Michael Clarke Duncan

director: Kristoffer Tabori

91 minutes (15) 2005
High Fliers VHS rental
Also available to rent on DVD

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Ben Keats is an up and coming tech genius in Seattle whose company Viz Trax is on the verge of a colossal breakthrough. Hardworking, dedicated and happy, Ben's in the perfect job. Which is exactly what he tells Vincent Palmer, a corporate headhunter who approaches him with an offer. The only problem is, Palmer doesn't know how to take no for an answer.

Christian Slater has always been at his best playing characters that are at best on the edge. Aside from the career-making Heathers he's essayed similar performances in films ranging from the massively underrated Pump Up The Volume to his recent starring role in the theatrical performance of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

However, with the exception of the superb Heathers, he's rarely stepped over the edge into full-on insanity, which he does here to great effect and it appears with tremendous enjoyment. Vincent Palmer is a twitchy, plausible, articulate rodent of a man, always moving, always talking and always giving the impression that the wheels are spinning too fast. He's a ball of energy, in control and desperate at the same time and he lifts the film every time he appears.

With Slater providing such a great central performance it's a shame that the rest of the film never quite lives up to him. Gil Bellows is given a thankless task as Ben Keats, the good man in a difficult situation and he does what he can with the material. However, Ben never really registers as anything more than a nice guy in over his head, the straight man to Slater's whirling dervish. Bellows is good, certainly, but despite playing the lead role this is not his film.

Of the other cast members, Michael Clarke Duncan is on his usual good form and works very well here playing against stereotype as Ben's boss, albeit in little more than a cameo. To make matters worse, Estella Warren is given the weakest role of the movie as Ben's wife, a woman seemingly utterly incapable of seeing the reality of what's going on. Supposedly the voice of reason as Ben's world falls apart, she instead comes across as petty and ignorant, unable to see how dangerous the situation her family is in is becoming.

Whilst the central performances are something of a mixed bag, the film itself is nicely paced. The tension is constantly increased and at it's best it plays a lot like one of Michael Crichton's better corporate thrillers. However, these in turn are offset by a couple of incredibly obvious plot devices. The moment you find out exactly what Ben is developing it's obvious it'll be used in the finale and when he receives a lecture about how bugs can be concealed in pens, then receives a new pen and thinks nothing of it, it's clear that for the plot to move along it's necessary for him to become a temporary idiot.

In the end, Pursued is a cheerfully trashy piece of corporate paranoia with a great central performance and not a great deal else. It's worth seeing for Slater alone and there are some fun ideas here but ultimately, this is the cinematic equivalent of an airport novel. Over the top, cheerfully dumb and if you're in the mood for it, good fun.
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