Retro Film Review: In the Line of Duty: Manhunt in the Dakotas (1991)

in film •  last year 

(Note: Capsule version of the review is available here.)

In the Line of Duty is the critically praised series of television movies dealing with the real-life incidents that claimed lives of law enforcement officers in USA. The Twilight Murders, another film in the series, is dealing with the case of Gordon Kahl (played by Rod Steiger), old farmer from North Dakota who would rather spend a year in prison than pay taxes to the despised U.S. government. After being released, he still refuses to pay taxes and the warrant is issued for his arrest. When the U.S. marshals come to arrest him, it turns out that Kahl isn't alone. Many poor farmers in American West share his extremist anti-government beliefs, and the routine operation turns into shootout that would leave federal officers dead. That brings FBI on the scene, and Agent Mayberly (Michael Gross) is supervising the manhunt. However, his efforts seem fruitless, since Kahl still has many supporters, some of them even in the local law enforcement.

After Betrayed, 1988 thriller by Costa Gavras, Hollywood mostly ignored the disturbing trends of rising right-wing extremism in the American heartland and that remained so until Oklahoma City bombing, when media hype brought right-wingers back into spotlight. Until that time, only the television movies like this one bothered to pay attention to that phenomenon. Unfortunately, The Twilight Murders is still routine and formulaic television film that uses sensationalist real life content in order to cover lack of originality in the script. Sometimes, like many American TV movies, it creates drama where drama shouldn't be. On the other hand, film is steadily directed by Dick Lowry, and Rod Steiger does good job potraying Gordon Kahl. On the other hand, Michael Gross is quite wooden as his pursuer and his interaction with some of other actors is terrible. However, film does deal with potentially thought-provoking social and political issues, so hour and half spent in front of the screen shouldn't be the total waste of time.
RATING: 4/10 (+)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on May 18th 1999)


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