Home Page > Movies Index (w/mixed oldies) > > Movie Review

This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

The Irresistible Force Meets the Immovable Object

Pursued (2004) on IMDb

Plot Overview

smile“Pursued” is a character-driven movie using minimally sketched-in people. Deranged head­hunter Vincent Palmer (Christian Slater) always gets them to sign. The opening vignette shows him deriving sadistic enter­tain­ment from watching the trouble he causes, and him not stop­ping short of murder. It's important his character is established right away, because his next moves show him an affable fellow just doing his job. He'll be all buddy-buddy with arm around his target Ben Keats (Gil Bellows) who's been plied with alcohol. He'll ingratiate him­self with Ben's wife Emily (Estella Warren) bussing each other on the cheek, and carrying their daughter Alison (Conchita Campbell) in his arms. We the audience need the intro to establish the guy is really a psycho putting on an act.

beakersThe second vignette involves a test run of genius Ben's chemical Lo-Jack formula Kid Trace. Its success evokes a celebration of high-fives and back-slapping at his company, which is tricky when the black, chief executive Franklin West­brook (Michael Clarke Duncan) starts swinging his meaty hands around; one feels like ducking. He's built like a pro foot­ball player. Then he gives a speech with his low, bass voice (and weak diction.) Sound expert Seth S. Horowitz, Ph.D. has written: (115–6)

Sudden loud sounds can cause you to startle, but if you add in very low pitch, your brain starts making associations. As with frogs selecting mates, loud and low pitch means large. Large sources of sounds might be desirable if you are a female frog looking for a mate, but in a normal human day, large is often scary. One evolutionary argument has been made that we have been biologically hard­wired to interpret loud sounds at the very low end of human hearing and lower, in the realm of infra­sound, as signalling “predator.”

While the silver-tongued psycho salesman has been getting cozy with every­one he meets, gentle giant Franklin puts people off by his mere presence. When he's on the ropes for apparently having “had a little too much to drink,” only Ben goes over to see what's wrong. People are put off by him even though he has their best interests at heart. When he must notify his next of kin about a brain tumor he's developed, he notifies Ben (“I didn't know who else to call.”) The movie emphasizes his lack of intimates by showing him living alone in a big three-storey house, and when it comes time for his funeral, nobody attending it save for a handful of employees.

Ben, however, is an all-round great guy. He's a hardworking genius who'd be a prize for any company. Even though he's over­worked he finds romantic one-on-one time at home with his beautiful wife. He's loyal to his company while temporarily not making much money there. Tightening his belt at home, though, does not stop him from spending money on his daughter's horse­back riding. He makes friends easily and is the only one to have any depth of friend­ship with Franklin.

Ben took Emily by storm when once he saw her in the window of FireSide Books where she works. He made their first date memorable and romantic. She's now his trophy wife who's a little more inter­ested than he in Palmer's lucrative offer and not quite as loyal to past obligations. We get the feeling that Ben is slightly better than her, but he wasn't stuck on absolute perfection when they married, and their marriage is quite workable.

Little Alison is adorable.


At first blush we wonder what's with Franklin's lack of intimates, but Vincent comes to our rescue. He has thoroughly researched his marks and has Franklin's CV posted on his computer, which gets displayed when Ben and his security guy Robert “Bob” Lang­ford (Scott Hylands) invade Vincent's lair—pause the movie to read it. Franklin had been groomed to be a defensive line­man in school but opted for academics instead. He got his BS in 1976, his MBA in 1982, and his PhD in 1984. He was president of his college fraternity. From 1991 to present, he's financed seven companies. We'd learned earlier he'd sunk $8.5 million into his current Viztrax. His having been a fraternity president rules out him being a loner by nature.

Franklin describes himself as “I'm a practical man.” Ben gives his own practical back­ground in a conversation with Vincent who comments on his pool playing, “Nice shot.” Then after Ben easily makes a tricky bank shot, Vincent remarks, “Jesus Christ! Like Fats Domino and Eddie Felson, for God's sake. Where the hell did you learn to play like that?”

Ben replies, “I used to play at the old rec center. I was too poor for tennis, and I couldn't jump, so basket­ball was out. But I used to beat my buddies [at pool] for their cigarettes.” As a practical matter a poor person can get skilled at billiards. Perhaps that's how Ben met Franklin, over a pool table at some bar where various ages mixed. And if Ben hustled his buddies for cigarettes, maybe Ben pulled a hustle on a fraternity bro to help cover his tuition. That could explain why he doesn't have any lasting fraternity friends.

Franklin's athleticism is expressed in his arm movements, and at home he wears a base­ball cap reminding one of the visor a pool player will wear on his head to protect him­self from the glare of over­head lights. The Kid Trace test was very telling. The technology as science is: no way. As sci-fi, we've seen worse. But as art it's great. For triangu­lation the satellites line up on the red dot like a cue on a cue ball. Then the display zooms down to the red dot moving down a stylized street like a pool ball rolling down the table. Then the motor­cycle rider being tracked, wearing his black, round helmet arrives in the loading dock like an eight ball in the side pocket. Then there's the celebration of the money shot. This is a pool game artistically represented.

Furthermore, Franklin has a hustler's mentality. He tells Ben to spare no expense treating their potential investor Gibbs to dinner, to make him think the company is already swimming in dough. And he wants Ben to squash these rumors that he's leaving so as not to jeopardize investment.

The movie pretty much telegraphs that Franklin is a hustler in his own right. Maybe he was one in high school, too. If he'd made up his mind to pursue academics, he could have thrown a big game to get seed money for college. His class­mates knowing or suspecting would have shunned him. And his very size could explain his estranged family. If his (popular) mom died giving birth to the big brute, perhaps his dad, and his mom's family, never forgave him. Then when his death was set up to look like suicide, they could have just completely washed their hands of him.

As for not getting any friends in his more recent workplaces, maybe it's a case of integration in business out­strip­ping social integration. The viewer may make up his own mind watching the interactions.

Franklin's story revolves around a single proverb, (Prov. 26:27) “Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.” What goes around comes around. When the defensive line­man allowed him­self to be run over, he incurred a head injury that later left him susceptible to a brain tumor (“I've beaten a lot worse.”) When he ran a hustle at pool, he made him­self a challenge to a later hustler who'd investigated him. These two episodes will alert the student of the proverbs to pay attention to this one that's normally used to address the back­firing of social engineering used to create the so-called level playing field.

Production Values

” (2004) was directed by Kristoffer Tabori. Its screen­play was written by Maggie April. It stars Christian Slater, Gil Bellows, and Estella Warren. Slater makes a believ­able psycho. The rest of the cast is pretty good, too.

MPAA rated it R for language and some violence. It was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Joey Newman was in charge of the music. The pacing was just right for a suspenseful thriller. A final still shot of what happens when the irresist­ible force meets the immovable object is philosophically satisfying.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

A straight guy trying to prevail in a world of hustle has all kinds of inspirational value. I rather liked this story. The audience was aware of the hustle the main characters were oblivious to while some of the main characters were cognizant of hustle hid from us viewers. Go figure. Don't expect the tracking technology show­cased in this film to be available anytime soon.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Horowitz, Seth S., Ph.D. The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. New York: Bloomsbury, 2012. Print.