Ulterior Motives (1993) – Review

2 Stars

Thomas Ian Griffith’s bid to overtake the mantle of 1990’s action-star/sex-symbol continues with Ulterior Motives, a private eye thriller with a bit of martial arts fighting thrown in for genre fans. The cover art on the DVD showcases Griffith in a Karate gi, holding a samurai sword in a battle posture. That leads potential viewers to believe that Motives is an action flick, in reality it’s a drama about industrial espionage and secret identities. Griffith is a pleasing screen presence, even if he’d rather talk it out with a bad guy instead of kicking him in the face.

Having been released in 1993, Ulterior Motives suffers from the same fundamental paranoia that underlined Rising Sun, also release in 1993. The concept being that Japan is invading America and overtaking our industries and real estate, which will eventually result in political power in the corridors of Washington D.C.. A reporter for the New York Times stumbles onto a story abut the exchange of military secrets to foreign spies and hires private investigator Jack Blaylock to retrieve the info. In taking the case Blaylock also unwittingly agrees to protect Erica from pursuing Yakuza assassins.

The political web grows deeper as Erica and Jack are constantly betrayed by trusted associates. In the final third the screenplay pulls out the bag of tricks and turns a major character into a villain. The acting from Griffith is strong enough to support the ludicrous writing. He’s like the Mickey Rourke of Martial Arts flicks, understated and sad-eyed, ornery and quick fisted, it’s quite a feat.

Perhaps because Thomas Ian Griffith made his entry into films as the (only) memorable character Terry Silver in The Karate Kid, Part III, he feels comfortable playing both pro and antagonist characters. It’s almost a running theme in his movies, practically all of his roles have him tinkering on the edge between hero and anti-hero.

Director: James Beckett
Stars: Thomas Ian Griffith, Mary Page Keller, Craig Shugart

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