BLIND JUSTICE, an HBO cable production released to home video, is a western about a blind gunfighter roaming the range with a baby in tow. Although it's clearly inspired by the remarkable 1981 Japanese film SHOGUN ASSASSIN, this is a misconceived, unintentionally campy little movie.
The enigmatic Canaan (Armand Assante) is a serape-clad vision in black, first glimpsed carrying a swaddled infant through Monument Valley. When he's confronted by Mexican bandits, he quickly thins their ranks, displaying preternatural marksmanship founded on his sense of hearing. Canaan is on
his way to deliver the unnamed baby to the town of Portales, fulfilling a promise which he made on the bloody battlefield of Antietam, moments before he lost his sight. He gets sidetracked in a one-horse town, where a small band of federal cavalry is holed up guarding a ton of silver bullion.
Meanwhile, evil bandit leader Alacran (Robert Davi) controls the only road out of town, and has so far foiled all their attempts to send for help. The arrogant and contentious chief cavalry officer, Sgt. Hastings (Adam Baldwin), isn't much better than Alacran. Canaan is befriended by the town
nurse, Caroline (Elizabeth Shue), and he soon agrees to run the barricade and return with the cavalry, in return for a tenth of the silver. Meanwhile, a duplicitous Irish priest, Father Malone (Ian McElhinney), is keeping Alacran informed of their every move.
Canaan miraculously makes it to a cavalry outpost, but he's quickly placed in custody for attempting to misappropriate US Treasury silver. By the time he escapes, the troops have all been ambushed and slaughtered by Alacran's band, who now ride roughshod over the town. Alacran is in the midst of
burying his son Hector, who was killed three days previously. But Canaan surreptitiously outfits the casket with explosives, and manages to blow casket, church, and outlaw crew sky-high. Canaan loses his hearing in the blast, but he's able to identify Alacran by smell, and dispatches him in a
Despite the pyrotechnics on display, an unfulfilled potential for low comedy lurks throughout the film--from Canaan's anachronistic aviator sunglasses to the not-quite-slapstick scenes of the blind man nearly falling off a balcony, not to mention the ultra-heightened, mucho macho bent of the
dialogue. Indeed, if the identical script were approached as camp, or directed in a deadpan Russ Meyer style, the results could well be hilarious. As it is, the central conceit of a blind gunfighter proves an insurmountable stumbling block, and each new amazing wrinkle only compounds the dilemma
of an audience uncertain whether its attention is being directed toward finger on trigger or tongue in cheek. (Violence, nudity, profanity.)
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