Ulterior Motives

  • 1993
  • 1 HR 35 MIN
  • R
  • Action, Crime, Mystery

This tantalizing entry in the Japan-bashing thriller sweepstakes is more suspenseful than bigger-budgeted Hollywood packages like RISING SUN. Peopled with paranoia-driven characters, ULTERIOR MOTIVES deals with industrial espionage, governmental cover-ups, media madness, and xenophobia in an arresting, pulse-quickening manner. Proceeding from a tip and...read more

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This tantalizing entry in the Japan-bashing thriller sweepstakes is more suspenseful than bigger-budgeted Hollywood packages like RISING SUN. Peopled with paranoia-driven characters, ULTERIOR MOTIVES deals with industrial espionage, governmental cover-ups, media madness, and xenophobia in

an arresting, pulse-quickening manner.

Proceeding from a tip and a hunch, New York Times reporter Erica Boswell (Mary Page Keller) hires a private investigator, Jack Blaylock (Thomas Ian Griffith), recommended by her ex-stepfather, "Uncle" Malcolm Carter (Ken Howard). The story involves suspected sale of military secrets, and Boswell

sees George Sakagami (Hayward Nishioka), an aerospace engineer, trading blueprints for the American F-33--a highly restricted fighter plane--to an Asian agent. During a scuffle in the Japanese agent's hotel room, the photographic evidence of the traitorous exchange is destroyed. Still, Boswell's

story runs and drives Sakagami to commit hari-kiri.

Falling for her hired PI, Erica is grateful when he rescues her from some Yakuza. Although her article has already strained US-Japan relations on the eve of important pro-trade legislation, the dogged reporter can't quit digging for follow-up material. What she doesn't realize is that Malcolm

Carter heads a big-business conspiracy to damage the Japanese image and kill the legislation. Having hired Blaylock to set up a phony spy transaction (and kill the real Sakagami to solidify the fiction), Carter now blackmails Blaylock into murdering Boswell, which he almost does on a rooftop date.

By the time she understands the full impact of the faked spy transaction, Boswell has fallen into the hands of Blaylock and two of Carter's hired assassins. Behind closed doors, the treacherous detective agrees to murder Boswell in a gruesome, headline-grabbing manner that will further Carter's

patriotic cause.

But, having co-operated fully in turning public opinion against the Empire of the Sun, Blaylock is stunned when Carter orders his men to kill him and make it look like suicide. Blaylock escapes and enables Erica to frighten blowhard Carter--who thought she was dead--into a near-heart attack on a

TV talk show. Following the power-mad public opinion shaper, Blaylock kills Carter and a female accomplice, Elizabeth (Ellen Crawford), appropriates Carter's cash stash, and hands Erica Boswell enough evidence to write a Pulitzer prize-winning expose.

Despite some talky patches and occasionally static direction, ULTERIOR MOTIVES is an above-average critique of media hysteria. But where this tricky film really casts a spell lies in how convincingly it sets up that phony spy subterfuge; we're as misled as the reporter for half the film's

running time. Although one might guess at Uncle Malcolm's treachery because he's just too damned benevolent, Blaylock's involvement in this crazy agit-prop scheme is thoroughly unexpected. Pointedly, the film creates a loving relationship between the driven journalist and her ostensible savior so

that Blaylock's betrayal of his lover really counts. Assiduously piling up details to confound our perceptions, ULTERIOR MOTIVES can be taken to task not for its suspense mechanics, but for allowing the central romance to stop the story cold. Too often, the kind of race-against-the-clock tension

the film needs is dissipated by the love story, or by an over-reliance on dialogue in general. Still, the film boasts many virtues, including believable characters, hard-driving action, and a frightening insight into an insidious brand of misguided patriotism. By plausibly depicting the worst in

human nature, the movie draws one into PR-driven insanity used to promote American interests. Faced with this thriller's power-mad movers and shakers, one doesn't have to stretch one's imagination too far to buy into the film's account of how easy it is to fool the public. (Profanity, nudity,adult situations, extensive violence.)

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  • Released: 1993
  • Rating: R
  • Review: This tantalizing entry in the Japan-bashing thriller sweepstakes is more suspenseful than bigger-budgeted Hollywood packages like RISING SUN. Peopled with paranoia-driven characters, ULTERIOR MOTIVES deals with industrial espionage, governmental cover-ups,… (more)

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