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Billy Bob Thornton,
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Christian I. Nyby II
William R. Moses
Perry's secretary Della and private investigator/lawyer Ken go to visit an old friend, rancher and famous lawyer, "Wild" Bill McKenzie. Meanwhile, gubernatorial candidate Harlan Richards is murdered, and his daughter, Karen, thinks that Harlan's rival, Governor Ryan Allison, has something to do with her father death. But Ryan has had suspicions about the death and thinks that it involves somebody that is close to him. He calls Karen but when she gets there Ryan is dead and Karen framed for the crime. Bill, as a friend of the Richards family, starts to investigate, and Ken and Della are only too willing to help. This was made after Raymond Burr sadly passed away... Written by
Lee Horton <Leeh@tcp.co.uk>
Harlan Richards is running for Governor when he is accused by a young lady of having an affair. This ruins his campaigns even though he claims innocence. He commits suicide although his daughter, Karen and friend Wild Bill Mackenzie suspect he was murdered. Months later Karen finds the girl who accused him of the affair and confronts her - demanding to know who set her father up. She goes to see the man she suspects - the other candidate for Governor but finds him murdered, with herself as the main suspect. Bill agrees to defend her and asks Ken and Della (house guests at his ranch) to help. Ken starts searching for the woman who first set Richards up as she has vanished since then.
Anyone `lucky' enough to see the debacle that was `Wicked Wives' will know that the Mason Mystery series looked to be about as alive and well as the sadly passed star, Raymond Burr. So this film just looked like it would be worse - however they seemed to learn from the last film. The signs aren't good when even the usual director (Nyby II) has skipped on this one but actually it stands out as a good part of the series - only lacking Mason himself to complete the formula.
The plot is quite complex and a little unlikely but is engaging none the less. Ken's investigation has more of a twist to it than usual and demands you pay more attention than he usually requires. As usual it has all the weakness of the usual formula but if you enjoy that formula (and I do) then it works fine. The film's main flaw for me is the way it wants to be a mason movie no matter how tenuous the link. Wicked Wives made an iffy link but this one is even worse - Ken and Della happen to be house guests of Mackenzie at the time! Ken gets to do stuff but Della is lumbered with nothing to do at all - cook and that's it!
Holbrook is much better in the lead than Sorvino was in WW. He is a completely different character than Mason and the film wants us to know this by having him ride a motorbike and visit a strip bar. He is a really good character and that's why the series stuck with him for the rest of the movies. Moses is OK as Ken and has a decent haircut this time but Hale just looks like a woman bound by contract and knowing she'll only ever be known for one role. The support cast is deep and that helps - John Spencer is good and a few other recognisable (but not easily nameable to this reviewer!) faces add character. Tony Curtis is a crazy bit of casting but works OK in small doses (which is all he has happily). An amusing side note for the Mason fan is that Kercheval has his second role in a Mason movie having first had a role as a suspect in the Defiant Daughter.
Overall this is surprisingly good. The Mystery movie before this one was pretty awful whereas this replaces Mason with a strong character, has a good story and sticks to formula for the rest. The only question I have is why they felt they needed to keep shoe-horning Ken and Della into it - surely they could keep the brand and just start with new characters, or at least only use them without forcing it?
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