Hard-To-Accept Storyline Cripples A Lacklustre Crime Melodrama.
A fairly engaging thriller filmed within the Auckland/Waitakere region of New Zealand, and featuring Auckland area actors in lead roles, this work is the second from a set of three showcasing a nonconformist former policeman, John Lawless (Kevin Smith) and his quondam police partner, Jodie Keen (Angela Dotchin), in this tale the pair having dedicated themselves toward solving a homicide of a female hitchhiker that is possibly related to a five-year-old case, although any connection between the two events is blurred by the fact that the suspect convicted of the first murder, Dean Riley (C. Thomas Howell) is still residing in prison. Riley's wife Trina (Kim Michalis) has consistently maintained that her husband is innocent, and has met with success in arranging for an appeal hearing of his conviction. Jodie, now employed as assistant to a private investigator, becomes involved with aiding Trina and her preparation for the appeal, and consequently is fired from her job. She is then able to procure the services of Lawless, who has been working as a bouncer at a trashy tavern, where his physical condition has declined as a result of the company that he keeps. Initially hesitant to assist Jodie and the Rileys, Lawless becomes increasingly interested in doing so after he learns that a former Police Department adversary, one Inspector Snow (Ross Duncan), has been given oversight of the pending appeal, causing John to believe that there may have been evidence tampering in the case. Riley is convinced that he was framed by Snow, and when he escapes from the prison hospital, wherein he has been placed following an intentional act of self-mutilation, in order to hunt down the Inspector, the task taken on by John and Jodie to establish his innocence becomes immensely more formidable and a great deal more dangerous, as well. The group of three "Lawless" works proved to be successful vehicles for Smith, who is given top billing and whose fans will be delighted with his bluff performance. His premature death helped to lift his reputation to virtual cult status. However, this film is highly imitative and follows what must be considered set guidelines for its genre. The direction is flaccid and awkwardly paced, the narrative falling somewhat short of being coherent, due to flaws in logic and continuity that are probably to be expected from a movie that is to be sundered by commercial announcements.
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