Directed by Brian Skiba.
Starring Emile Hirsch, John Cusack, Jake Manley, Elizabeth Faith Ludlow, Graham Patrick Martin, Heather Marie Marsden, Chris Jai Alex, Aubrey Stevens, Barry Hanley, Nick Benseman, Shelby Yardley, James Logan William Katt, Brittany Belt, and Andrew Stevens.
Detective Breslin crosses paths with Calloway, a ruthless hacker who’s trying to save his kidnapped wife from a drug cartel. When Calloway escapes from police custody, Breslin joins forces with a no-nonsense cop to reclaim his prisoner.
Emile Hirsch is more often than not an underappreciated presence even if he finds himself stuck inside a bottom of the barrel Bruce Willis vehicle, but here in Pursuit, he’s the one giving a Bruce Willis performance. No one can blame him, considering director Brian Skiba (writing alongside Ben Flore and Dawn Bursteen) has cobbled together an incomprehensible mess of a colliding criminal underworld and detectives on the chase.
The plot’s core is relatively simple; Emile Hirsch’s computer hacker son of a high-profile drug dealer Rick Calloway wants his missing wife back. It’s a situation that his father, John Calloway (John Cusack), might have something to do with, as he is also looking after Rick’s son. Somehow, Pursuit spins its gears into a sprawling crime saga involving superiors of superiors, a gay son trying to keep his sexuality a secret from the big boss, officers across different states joining forces, a country line dancer club, assassins (complete with pointless and reprehensible graphic shots of murdered children), and a tragic backstory for nearly everyone. Even with all that, there’s not one point in the movie to want or feel like Rick should be reunited with his family, as almost every character is a horrible person to some degree or connected to a crime, and not in an endearing way.
As these various criminals and drug dealers and detectives all cross paths, Pursuit tangles itself to a point where it’s often hard to get a clear grasp on some of the character motives. And when it is clear, most of the motives are fairly despicable. There’s also no sense of humor or fun or meaningful purpose; it’s just an exercise in being as nasty as possible.
By the standards of dated technology, hacking and tracking come across as ridiculous and hard to take seriously. Perhaps more hilarious is the scene where Rick gets to locating on his computer while a prostitute sits on the bed in the background, looking as bored as everyone watching. Shootouts are embarrassingly conceived, at one point awkwardly cutting to a mall patron for far too long, telegraphing that he is about to get shot. Just about every melee fight comes with the cheapest sound effects imaginable. And when it comes to torture sequences, well, sometimes the filmmakers don’t even bother trying to spend any money, most notably when one character is meant to be stabbing a fork into someone’s eye, except it’s shot from an angle where the object is nowhere near the high no matter what the sound design wants you to believe. However, there is no more tone-deaf moment than a line directed at a babysitter during the climax that had me in fits laughing. Pursuit is indeed so bad it should be seen to be believed, but it’s also nowhere close to competent or enjoyable. For the most part, it’s also indulgent in excessive gratuitous violence without justification.
Throughout all of this, Emile Hirsch doesn’t even bother to give a convincing performance and mostly looks annoyed he is in the movie. The only kind thing there is to say about Pursuit is that a pair of mismatched detectives played by Elizabeth Faith Ludlow and Jake Manley have one or two dialogue exchanges that are passable. There is no reason on earth to give Pursuit a chance.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com