At the end of this film, I felt like something had been lacking in terms of characterization. A lot of the dialogue felt repetitive, and I think that space of talk (and there isn't that much of it) could have carried a bit more heft. And if flashbacks were to be used (and they were), they should have shed more light on the man walking north in the pitiless desert in the hopes of saving his life from the merciless hunter on his back.
BUT...the opening is very nicely done. The supersaturated golds/yellows/brown that scream "DESERT". The low-key way the diner scene is done, and yet we feel menace in the air. It was nice to see Dee Wallace Stone again--a good actress who simply has not been adequately put to work in Hollywood, in my opinion.
Even better, we get to spend some time with gravelly-voiced, sad-eyed Lance Henriksen, one of my fave character actors. He's the relentless hunter. Handsome, hawk-eyed Luke Goss (Nomak from BLADE 2 and Prince Nuada from Hellboy 2) is the hunted suit-wearing man who is kidnapped after he departs from the diner (where a lonely waitress played by Wallace Stone hits on him rather kindly, and he similarly kindly rejects). A nice guy, we think. A family man.
But is he?
And that's the question (or one of them) at the heart of this pursuit film. Who is good? Who is bad? Why is this happening? When one man puts another man to torture and testing, we assume he's either justified (by some previous act, as in PAYBACK) or unjustified (as in VANISHING POINT). Either it's a sociopath getting kicks from torturing a human being; or it's an angel of vengeance. Or maybe something grayer, but all the same, landing somehwere in that range of unmotivated/motivated and just/unjust.
The notorious cactus scene is well-done. Luke Goss, whose past includes success as a cutiepie drummer for a band called Bros that was big in the '80s, shows that he can act without a ton of makeup on (as in the vampire mutant of Blade II or the tormented Elf Prince in Hellboy II). He has a lean, chiselled handsomeness that seems a shame to sunburn and torment. And he does a creditable job as the maybe good/maybe bad victim. I'd like to see him in other films. He's got an intersting face/voice, and I think he might do much better than some would expect of the recurring genre-film "monster."
By the end, we know the why. So, there is closure, although you are left to guess one detail, and I won't spoil it.
The direction is solid, if not consistently as stylish as the set-up and parts of the finale.
I think fans of action films (or of one of the particular leads) can enjoy this. But it didn't rise as high as I would have liked, mostly because space was wasted (even with a fastish pace). I did enjoy the look of some of the desert scenes quite a bit.
The bonus features were kind of pathetic, especially the "making of." Only a couple of places of the "how tos"--particularly the cactus scene how to--made it worthwhile. It didn't seem as if much thought went into that aspect. But worth watching for those who want a sense of "standing behind the scenes" reality.