28 August 2001 | DeanSpeir
A perfectly ghastly entry in what was shaping up as an eagerly anticipated annual event, A&E's end-of-Summer dramatization of a Spenser novel.
As I was initially fearful, the re-casting of Ernie Hudson was a blunder
a shaven head and a leather coat does not a "Hawk" make! The new co-henchman character of "Vinnie," who didn't have a line of dialogue in the entire screenplay, was infinitely more interesting. Hudson makes one long for the over-the-top version portrayed by Avery Brooks in the Robert Urich TV series and subsequent tele-flicks.
Po-Chih Leong, who somehow has made the transition from the Shanghai cinema school to teleflicks
must have seemed like a good choice given the setting, the Chinatown of an East Coast port city which is an entryway for an illegal alien smuggling scheme, apparently has seen one too many Ang Lee films, and tried mixing alternative points of view in a style reminiscent of the late '60s Roger Corman drug flicks. It detracted from an already incompletely realized narrative and was nothing more than an absurd stylistic conceit. (No cohesive story? Dazzle'em with camera-work!)
Author Parker makes another of his fatuous, wordless cameos, and director Leong gives him a slow zoom close-up that suggested his character is to play a larger role in the narrative. Of course, he doesn't, and in that three second shot, Parker overacts on a par with Steven King in his cameos.
Joe Mantegna was clearly hampered by the direction and the script (by Parker and his wife Joan, to whom all of his novels are dedicated). Even the always excellent Marcia Gay Harden was forced to struggle with a suddenly silly "Susan Silverman." Oddly, Eric Roberts comes off reasonably well in a role as a sympathetic villain, although that suffers from poor direction as well!
What a disaster! I actively hated this tele-flick!