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A lurid little thriller from longtime unpretentious action specialist
Mark L. Lester, with enough melodramatic excesses to be fun despite
its many formula chases and confrontations. Whitman (James Remar), a
Biblical scholar-cum-serial killer, is tried after a string of gruesome
murders patterned on the martyrdoms of saints (a gimmick that has turned
up in the Messiah TV series) and sent to the gas chamber. However, a
covert government agency revives Whitman from near-death, gives him
plastic surgery, brainwashes him with a new personality, then deploys
him as an assassin. However, the programming doesn't take and Whitman
returns to his old stamping grounds (San Diego) to plague his cop adversary
Morell (Mario Van Peebles) via the old-fashioned gambit of murdering,
in alphabetical order, the jurors and officers of the court who condemned
him to death, ultimately planning on the crucifixion of the hero's ex-wife,
the prosecuting attorney (Gladys Jimenez). Van Peebles, with a trick
hand that seizes up in crises (the villain once used a nail-gun on him),
is a glum and uncharismatic hero, though usefully conversant with Biblical
clues, but the underused Remar relishes a chance to deliver full-strength
psychopathic violence until taken down with a crossbow-fired crucifix.
The appealing Sharisse Baker is good in the role of Van Peebles's too-soon-killed-off
new partner, but the rest of the supporting cast is rather lower-case.
First published in this form here.
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