Despite Esai Morales's florid acting, ULTRAVIOLET emerges as an above-average trapped-like-desert-rats thriller.
Determined to give their marriage a second chance, ranger Sam (Stephen Meadows) and his visiting estranged wife, Kristen (Patricia Healy), forget about trips to a counsellor when they are attacked by loony Nick (Morales), who introduces himself by cold-bloodedly killing his traveling companion in
front of them. After knocking Sam temporarily out of commission with a bullet, Nick forces Kristen to chauffeur him in her motor home. Despite such wily ploys as draining off gas and leaving clues behind her, Kristen is constantly counter-checked by Nick, an embittered artist who's decided to
"mold" her into his ideal woman.
When Sam recovers sufficiently to attempt a rescue, Nick slows him down with a rattlesnake bite. Forced to submit to his advances, Kristen botches a chance to knife Nick and then starts playing along with his megalomania. Pleading to be taken to a local watering hole, Kristen is not saved by any
of the tavern types, but they do humiliate the citified Nick enough for him to lure one good ol' boy away and kill him. Dragging his perfect mate on the road again, Nick is furious when Sam trails after them with a state trooper. After pumping lead into the cop, Nick goes a few rounds with Sam and
winds up chained to a jeep. During the ensuing climax, the vehicle starts sinking inexorably into a hole; the desert sands suck up the jeep with madman attached.
Hostage melodramas such as DEPERATE HOURS and WHEN YOU COMIN' BACK, RED RYDER? offer audiences a chance to applaud upright Americans faced with deranged criminals who threaten the social fabric of their lives. While most viewers spend some time questioning their identities and paying lip service
to good citizenship, they're really interested in watching the scummy hostage-takers "get theirs." What gives ULTRAVIOLET a distinctive edge is that in dissecting its villain's brain viewers realize why a criminal type so easy to overlook or dismiss is so dangerous. Handsome and extroverted, Nick
could probably fool a lot of people as long as they didn't make the mistake of disparaging his work. For nutty Nick, the desert becomes a Garden of Eden where his very life will be a work of art not subject to critics or financees and where he can begin again with a neo-Eve. Viewers will be
equally intrigued by the resourcefulness of the feminist heroine who outsmarts her tormentor on several occasions and never sits back awaiting a last-minute rescue by the cavalry.
Grippingly directed by Mark Griffiths, ULTRAVIOLET knows where to angle its camera for maximum effect whenever a rattler's about to strike or a psycho's about to snap. Only in the country-western bar scene does the film lose momentum because this primal drama is best left played out in the burning
desert; introducing other characters at a late point in the story only dilutes the suspense.
Except for those moments when Morales calls too much attention to himself, ULTRAVIOLET remains an engrossing cat-and-mouse game with a desert-sun intensity and has a denoument with an undeniably rousing impact. (Violence, sexual situations.)
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