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Although it displays the usually reliable Merchant-Ivory production banner this tale of high adventure and skullduggery in British India is only a routine B movie with exotic pretensions. The background is historically factual, drawn around the ritual murders committed by a secret religious cult of so-called 'Thuggees' (from which the word 'thug' was later derived). But the far-fetched story of a British soldier infiltrating their ranks and losing himself in a netherworld of violence and vices is, at best, contrived, even by the lowest standards of romantic fiction. The idea might have looked better on paper, before its artistic and commercial potential was crippled by a lackluster, coincidence-filled script and a star performance that drains the hero of any charisma. Director Nicholas Meyer tries to convey the allure of an ancient culture, but the film doesn't have enough style to camouflage its slapdash lack of substance, and the token gestures to period flavor and atmosphere don't extend beyond the costume design and some cut-rate esoteric mysticism. When, for example, hero Pierce Brosnan is seduced by a mysterious native girl, their shadows on the wall show him embraced by the six-armed Thuggee goddess Kali (cue the ominous tabla music)
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