17 March 2010 | rsoonsa
The Director Ventures To Do More Than Is Mandated By His Own Story.
This action/adventure film, originally titled FRAMEUP II, presents the continuing law enforcement adventures of Ralph Baker (Wings Hauser), Sheriff of an imaginary small unincorporated community, Orton Creek, California, located near Los Angeles, wherein Baker finds himself tasked with solving a series of homicides that are obviously in connection with a local businessman's desperate efforts to avoid a scandal associated with a bank that he owns. It appears that mentioned businessman Charles Searage (John Saxon), has been cooking his bank's books and, through illicit loan practices, pocketing a large sum of monies while plainly lacking any sort of ethics. Results from an internal audit reveal that something is not quite right with the firm's recordkeeping. This data that the auditors have gathered leads to their murders. Because the primary Sheriff's Office duties in Orton Creek apparently involve the suppression of "chickens in the roadway", the slayings offer an exciting opportunity for Baker and his small staff to prove their worth, as in the prior film, by utilizing their crime solving skills. Writer/director Paul Leder creates sundry other obstacles for Ralph, such as a matrimonial snare set for him by the Sheriff dispatcher, Jo (Frances Fisher); the onset of puberty for widower Baker's own daughter; and a patent lack of cooperation that he faces from among County officialdom that will stand in the way of his succeeding at his sworn duty. Additionally, second-billed Patti D'Arbanville performs as "Babs", a secretary at the bank whose affair of the loins with one of the fatally dispatched auditors has placed her very much in harm's way and providing one of many Leder sub-plots as the film moves on. Killings continue apace, and other significant characters make their appearances, notably a pair of oft-seen thugs in the employ of Searage, and also the latter's wife (Margaux Hemingway) whose profound problems with alcohol and other drugs mirror the ill-starred Hemingway's actual ending. These comprise only a portion of a common Leder handicap that operates against him throughout his film career: a surfeit of ancillary story lines that proves too much for weaving into an acceptable tale. Here, as writer, director, as well as producer, he is obviously more than he himself can handle in his fourth role: editor, since a good deal of plot prolixity wants for excision. Besides Hauser, three characters are returned from the initial FRAMEUP, Deputy Bob Sprague (Jeff MacKay), Hauser's girl friend Jo, and his 12 year old daughter Sue (played by 16 year old Lauren Woodland). An interlaced relationship between Baker and the two women may evoke a feeling of general indifference from a number of viewers; however, the physical struggle between the females and two Searage henchmen provides these roles with more importance than their initial appearances indicate will be likely. D'Arbanville shares acting honours with Hauser, each of whom works hard at creating a part, and Saxon is effective as usual, in this instance cast as the primary agent of the Forces of Evil. Always arresting Lee Arenberg is only seldom seen as a goon in the employ of Searage. Taken as a whole, this is a rather simple-minded action affair, with overly ample plot detours that interfere with the film's narrative flow.