Shoot to Kill (1988) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Sidney Poitier returned to the big screen in this action-thriller, after a decade-long absence. When a cunning murderer vanishes into the rugged mountains of the Pacific Northwest, pursuing FBI agent Warren Stantin (Poitier) must exchange familiar city streets for unknown wilderness trails. Completely out of his element, Stantin is forced to enlist the aid of expert tracker Jonathan Knox (PLATOON'S Tom Berenger). The killer has infiltrated a guided hiking trip led by Knox's girlfriend Sarah (Kirstie Alley, at the height of her Cheers fame). Viewers don't know which of the hikers is the killer, and the tension lasts well into the movie.

  • An F.B.I. Agent teams up with a tracker to pursue a murderer after he vanishes into the mountains and infiltrates a hiking group.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The film opens with a man entering the fine jewelry store he owns in Seattle. He frantically gathers up a consignment of diamonds and is arrested when the security alarm in the store goes off. He tells the police he needs to take the diamonds back to his house where his wife is being held hostage. As the police surround his house, the criminal inside demands to go free. To make his point, the criminal lets the housekeeper free, only to shoot her in the back, killing her. He exits the house with the store owner's wife, however they are both covered in a bed comforter, preventing police snipers from killing him or the woman. The police, lead by FBI agent Warren Stantin, follow the man and his hostage to the waterfront where he boards a boat. The wife is shot dead and the killer escapes with the diamonds.

    Stantin later receives a tip that the killer may have retreated to the mountains that boarder Washington State and British Columbia. A hiking party has chartered the services of a woman named Sarah, an expert guide in the region and the killer has joined them. Stantin hires Sarah's boyfriend, John Knox, to follow them. Knox, a fiercely independent and private man, is also an expert guide and tracker. At first he resists Stantin's attempts to hire him but later agrees.

    As Stantin and Knox slowly catch up with Sarah's party, one of them, Norm, slips and falls off a ridge. As the killer, whose name is Steve, tries to help him up, his pistol falls into a crevice where he can't retrieve it. He has Norm hand it back to him and then lets go of his arm, letting him plummet into the canyon. When the rest of the party backtracks and sees what happened, Steve throws some of them over the cliff and forces the last man, Harvey, backward until he too falls. Sarah is horrified and panics, however, Steve quickly takes control and tells her to lead him to the Canadian border. Sarah reluctantly agrees.

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