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TV Reviews : Kenya Is the Real Star in Poaching Adventure 'Eyes of a Witness'

March 30, 1991|RAY LOYND

"Eyes of a Witness" (at 9 p.m. Sunday on Channels 2 and 8) is an embarrassingly shallow adventure movie starring Daniel J. Travanti and Jennifer Grey as an estranged father and daughter battling poachers in East Africa.

The production's single redeeming value is that it was shot in Kenya. The streaked equatorial skies and occasional glimpses of zebra and gazelle seen from a chopper are welcome interludes in a story that otherwise belongs in a comic book.

Talk about the ugly American. Travanti and the writers (Charles Robert Carner and Walter Clayton III) create an insufferable (not to mention unbelievable) cultural snob who flies to Africa to save his daughter from imagined terrors. Actually, she's doing quite well as a research biologist working on a cure for sleeping sickness ( zzzzzzzzz ), which this show perpetuates on its own.

Travanti's bellicose dad sneers at everything African until he finds himself facing a bum murder rap. The plot is insultingly dumb. During one fray in the Kenya bush, an unarmed Travanti hurls himself onto a murderous, gun-wielding poacher; it's at this point that you fantasize the dialogue materializing in little balloons above the heads of the characters.

Director Peter Hunt's limited successes come from two unlikely players who survive the hokeyness surprisingly well: a little Masai boy named Muki (Dennis Ngoga) and Carl Lumbly as a no-nonsense police commissioner. Other poacher yarns have been shot in Africa and done much better than this.

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