The 80s was a great time for action movies. There were so many of them that some really good ones get lost in the mix. Forgotten gems of the 1980s. Excellent films, full of great character actors and stories that never get talked about anymore. Shoot to Kill aka Deadly Pursuit is one of those movies and the 1988 thriller is one of my favorites.
The movie starts with a diamond heist gone wrong with the robber killing hostages and making his escape into Washington State. FBI man Warren Stantin (Sidney Poitier) is hot on his trail. When he follows the trail to an area where tourists and vacationers meet up to start hikes into the mountains, he sees a naked man that has been killed in the same manner as the earlier hostages. He knows he is closing in on the killer.
The killer has replaced the now dead man on a fishing and hiking expedition led by a local woman (Kirstie Alley). A great little mystery starts here as the fishing expedition is full of veteran character actors. All are well known to the audience for playing heavies and bad guys in many previous movies. We are left to guess who the antagonist is.
Poitier’s character seeks out a local guide to help him track the killer in the wilderness and is directed to Warren Knox (Tom Berenger), the fiancé of Alley’s character. He is about as impressed with FBI agents as everyone else. He balks at taking him along, figuring he will slow things down and get in his way.
The movie then cuts back and forth between Knox and Stantin as they make their way through the mountains, trying to close the gap. Along the way, they have to deal with sabotaged bridges and other traps, set by the killer who expects somebody to be on his trail. We also follow the hiking crew, all saying doing things to make you think they may be the killer.
At the mid-point, the killer reveals himself. I won’t ruin it in case you haven’t seen it. With Alley now as his hostage, it is a race against time as Knox and Stantin catch up, driving him towards the city as they try and box him in.
Shoot To Kill holds a very rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was praised by Janet Maslin of The New York Times as:
“…the reappearance of good old-fashioned storytelling technique as well. This is essentially a formula film, and as such it’s nothing fancy. But it has crisp, spare direction, enormous momentum and a story full of twists and turns. For anyone who thinks they don’t make spine-tingling detective films the way they used to, good news: they’ve just made another.”
Is it really that good? In short, yes. Shoot To Kill is an absolute blast. It is a great 1980s thriller. Berenger and Poitier are an underrated buddy team with a real Odd Couple vibe. The rest of the cast is excellent, featuring names like Clancy Brown, Richard Masur, Fred Coffin, Andrew Robinson. What’s not to like?