A couple of middle aged war buddies led by Charlie arrive at Wolf Lake for their annual hunting trip, but the guy they were suppose to meet isn't there, but instead there's a young man, David and his girlfriend who are care-taking the resort. When Charlie finds out David was a deserter in the Vietnam War. Hate builds up within, as he lost his son in Vietnam and he takes it upon himself to hand out the punishment for fleeing his commitments.
If there's a sorely under-valued and truly forgotten pearler, "Wolf Lake" is one of those sleepers that should have a wider audience. It might be far from perfect, as the project has some teetering problems, but for most part it's an adeptly crafted and hauntingly cerebral picture. The problem area mostly arose from the oddly placed flash forward sequences that cut in and out within the narrative. This aspect certainly spoiled what's about to come and clouded the story with confusion. Feels like we the viewer are missing out on details. Actually it begins with the ending, so it's not terribly surprising in the final outcome. But reading a fellow user's review on the flick, it has made interested in seeing the supposed re-edited "The Honor Guard". As the choppy editing that was worked in was the only thing that dampened the film's edge.
Despite knowing what was going to happen, Burt Kennedy's sedately crisp direction was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode with the burning tension and scathing actions coming to the forefront in the closing half. Building up to this riveting game of cat and mouse was made possible by a studiously pressure filled script and a sensationally barnstorming lead turn by Rod Steiger. He really does get into his relentlessly, hot-headed character, but its hard to really despise him as the torment really shows in his face and we watch as it tears him apart. Whenever he and David Huffman's character (David) share the screen watch how intensely gripping their confrontations become and how they feed the film's fire. It's a conflict of two generations just waiting to crack over their opinions of the changing face of America. The bleakly threatening atmosphere spun out from the beautiful lakeside backdrop and isolated woodlands was made to great use and a stirring music score truly does hold a lethal sting in its rhythm. All the rich performances are well grounded and focused. David Huffman as the placid-minded young man David is convincing and a lovely Robin Mattson plays hapless Linda. Jerry Hardin superbly plays the concerned and always consciousness Wilbur. His character is the little voice that Charlie would here if something he was doing didn't sit to well. Richard Herd and Paul Mantee do well in their parts. If your expecting a rough revenge / survival exploitation vehicle amongst a familiar setting. Its starts off with a lot innuendo and then some disturbing moments (like rape) show up. There's way more too it and gladly so. Kennedy fleshes out the situation with a diverse range of traits fusing together with excellent suspense and convicted performances.
A couple hiccups can't stop this stimulating potboiler from deserving to be picked out of obscurity. Admirers of Steiger or Kennedy shouldn't miss out on this one. Recommended.
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