Based on a true story of US cavalry officers who defied the Army's orders to slaughter hundreds of healthy but unneeded horses in the 1930s, IN PURSUIT OF HONOR fumbles the opportunity for rousing heroics with phlegmatic direction and by-the-books scripting.
Having previously crossed swords with unyielding Colonel Hardesty (Bob Gunton), Cavalry Sergeant Major John Patrick Libbey (Don Johnson) is taken aback when Hardesty is sent to Texas to command Libbey's entire regiment. Bidding farewell to the more simpatico Colonel Owen Stuart (Rod Steiger),
Libbey and his men welcome a new platoon leader, Lt. Marshal Buxton (Craig Sheffer) sent to oversee the care of their horses. Acting on the direct orders of General Douglas MacArthur (James B. Sikking), Hardesty informs the veteran horse soldiers that they must not only turn in their sabers but
also destroy 506 of their mounts. Although Libbey, Buxton, Mulcahey (John Dennis Johnston), Quinlain (Neil Melville), and Shattuck (Robert Coleby) comply with the first round of shooting, they quickly reach a consensus about sacrificing their careers to save the rest of the animals. Buxton
receives support from Colonel Stuart, who travels to Washington DC, where his pleas to reconsider this slaughter falls on MacArthur's deaf ears.
Meanwhile, Stuart's daughter Jessica (Gabrielle Anwar), a reporter, gives the story to the foreign press, where it is widely reported. When their plan to stampede the horses past their trackers and onto an Indian reservation proves untenable, Libbey and his comrades risk their lives to head for
the Canadian border; Mulcahey is gunned down by one of Hardesty's officers. As world opinion swells in their favor, they are granted pardons. Only Buxton returns from Canada to rejoin the army and continue fighting within the system.
Always saluting with the obvious noble gesture, IN PURSUIT OF HONOR loses sight of a simple storyline whose purity could have been inordinately moving. Neophyte director Ken Olin endeavors to invest a tale of courage under fire with epic overtones. Both a memorial to and a condemnation of the
military spirit, the screenplay errs in placing the relationship of the cavalrymen to their steeds and underdevelops the comradeship among the AWOL quintet. The film is further hurt by its caricatured portrayal of the piece's old soldiers. MacArthur is a shadowy despot who glowers like Ming the
Merciless, Hardesty is pompously one-note, and gruff-but-loveable Stuart sinks under the full weight of Steiger's Method acting and incapacity for accents. Nothing about this factual drama rings with authenticity the way it should, telling its tale in a portentous, protracted manner instead of
revealing it as the galloping act of rash heroism that it was. (Graphic violence, profanity, adult situations, substance abuse.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Based on a true story of US cavalry officers who defied the Army's orders to slaughter hundreds of healthy but unneeded horses in the 1930s, IN PURSUIT OF HONOR fumbles the opportunity for rousing heroics with phlegmatic direction and by-the-books scriptin… (more)