Car crashes and creepy campaign contributions make strange bedfellows in this clunky thriller.
Maverick adman-turned-populist Aidan Carvell (William Shatner) looks like the next senator from California thanks to his patriotic stump speeches and bestselling manifesto Land of the Free. During one appearance an assassin tries to shoot Carvell but is taken out by his campaign manager Frank
Jennings (Jeff Speakman), an upright ex-Navy man. However, FBI agents pull Jennings aside and inform him that the attempted murder might have been staged, and that Carvell's campaign funds have come from homegrown anti-government "militia" terrorists. Reluctantly, Jennings breaks into Carvell's
computer and passes on incriminating files to the feds, barely escaping Carvell's "Free America" thugs in the process. Four months later the government's trial against a smug, still-popular Carvell is about to begin, with Frank Jennings the star witness. Although supposedly in a federal protection
program, Jennings finds himself fingered by a turncoat agent. He, his wife (Lisa Darr) and son (Cody Dorkin) go on the run, hunted by goons, and only after an apocalyptic car/bus chase does the hero survive to testify. Then, due to a corrupt judge, the evidence is thrown out and Carvell
exonerated. Jennings knows that the former defendant will not forgive or forget him, so he girds himself for a one-man assault on Carvell's residence. He blows up the villain's house, bodyguards, and helicopter, and after a furious fistfight, drowns Carvell in a small pond. A subsequent sham FBI
inquest returns a verdict of accidental death and keeps Jennings's name out of it.
LAND OF THE FREE staggered out from under the auspices of PM Entertainment, a direct-to-video outfit which grinds out dozens of lowbrow action pictures, commonly concerning the antics of kickboxers vs. druglords. While a political thriller seems an ambitious goal for such producers, the end result
here is no improvement whatsoever. Cars careen and explode on cue into fireballs, martial-arts mayhem reigns, and the commando family man with the biggest guns and bombs wins, regardless of real-world logic or police procedure. SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964) this is not. There's a sideshow attraction in
the doughty shape of ever-stolid movie and TV hero William Shatner as a master bad guy (patterned, it would seem, after real-life, third-party political gadabout H. Ross Perot). Indeed Shatner's broad delivery makes him a credible office-seeker when Carvell gladhands before media cameras. But his
one-note pomposity continues unvaried, whether the ill-conceived Carvell gloats over his militia minions or gets pummeled bloody by B-level action star Speakman (THE PERFECT WEAPON) in the ludicrous finale. The cast contains other offbeat, offnote cameos by the likes of director Arthur Hiller (THE
HOSPITAL) as the judge and Bernie Kopell ("The Love Boat") as a TV newsman. (Violence, profanity, nudity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: R
- Review: Car crashes and creepy campaign contributions make strange bedfellows in this clunky thriller. Maverick adman-turned-populist Aidan Carvell (William Shatner) looks like the next senator from California thanks to his patriotic stump speeches and bestsellin… (more)