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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Lightning Jack': On the Run With Outlaws in the Old West

March 11, 1994|PETER RAINER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What can you say about the very dull "Lightning Jack"? "Unforgiven" it's not. "Cat Ballou" it's not either. It's not even "Quigley Down Under."

*

Paul Hogan plays Jack, a--har, har--nearsighted Aussie gunslinger in the Old West. He's on the run from the law in Junction City for a botched robbery. Ben (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a mute, is his all-too-obliging hostage who becomes his all-too-obliging accomplice.

The pairing does not begin auspiciously, as Ben prepares to suck rattlesnake venom from Jack's rear quarters. This could be the first "Beavis and Butt-head" Western, except it's not as witty.

The so-called resurgence of the movie Western in recent years is mostly studio hype--for every "Unforgiven" there's a "Posse." But "Lightning Jack" doesn't even attempt to put a spin on the genre. It's just dawdles along in amiable imbecility. It looks as if it were made because everyone involved felt like kicking up some dust and spitting tobacco juice.

Hogan, looking trim and leathery--like a cross between Johnny Carson and a shank of beef jerky--doesn't exactly stretch his modest skills. Gooding overdoes the mute business with so much mugging that he makes Holly Hunter's overactive overacting in "The Piano" seem restrained by comparison. (The problem with mute characters in movies is that their muteness invariably leads to miming, and miming rightly provokes bloodlust. When Dustin Hoffman punched out that mime in "Tootsie," the audience's cheers rocked the rafters.)

Beverly D'Angelo and Pat Hingle put in some old-pro cameo appearances, just long enough to make you moon for some real acting.

At least there won't be a sequel.

'Lighting Jack'

Paul Hogan: Lightning Jack Kane

Cuba Gooding Jr.: Ben Doyle

Beverly D'Angelo: Lana

Pat Hingle: Marshall Kurtz

A Savoy Pictures presentation of a Lighting Ridge/Village Roadshow production. Director Simon Wincer. Producers Paul Hogan, Greg Coote, Simon Wincer. Executive producers Graham Burke, Anthony Stewart. Screenplay by Paul Hogan. Cinematographer David Eggby. Editor O. Nicholas Brown. Costumes Bruce Finlayson. Music Bruce Rowland. Production design Bernard Hines. Art director Lisette Thomas. Set decorator Lynn Wolverton Parker. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

MPAA rating: PG-13, for sexual situations. Times guidelines: Includes some shooting and a scene in which the cowboys simulate a sex act.

throughout Southern California.

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