The Austin Chronicle

Lightning Jack

Rated PG-13, 98 min. Directed by Simon Wincer. Starring Paul Hogan, Cuba Gooding Jr., Beverly D'Angelo, Pat Hingle.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 18, 1994

From the director of Free Willy comes this silly waste of time, a Western for people that hate Westerns. Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee) is Lightning Jack Kane, an expatriate Aussie outlaw doing his damnedest to gain some notoriety in the American West. When the gang he's been riding with is wiped out in a bank job gone bad, Jack finds himself on his own -- a situation he's not particularly fond of, considering the less than thunderous press he's been getting of late in the frontier newspapers. When a mute store clerk named Ben Doyle (Gooding Jr., of Boyz N the Hood) saves his life one day, Jack reckons he might be able to use a partner and begins the arduous task of training the young man to shoot, walk, and think like an outlaw, with predictable results. Ben's a lousy partner, more prone to shooting himself in the foot than holding up banks, but Jack hasn't the heart to give him the heave-ho. Wincer piles on the “I'm OK, You're OK,” misfits-together-forever sentiments so thick that you need a prairie schooner to see your way clear of all the bullfunk. Floundering faux male bonding aside, the film's most annoying drawback is its portrayal of the mute Ben Doyle, a put-upon young hothead who's not about to let his vocal shortcomings get in the way of his life. That's all fine and good, but unfortunately the character's comedy comes off in such a broad, eyeball-rolling way, it's all you can do to put the embarrassing Stepin Fetchit/Mantan Moreland-style mugging out of your head. Hogan, as usual, is Hogan, putting another shrimp on the frontier barbie with his trademark amicability and not much else. His craggy good looks and laid-back drawl are perfect for the character, but the humor here is so painfully juvenile, and the stereotypes so mind-numbingly broad, that it's a veritable chore to sit through Lightning Jack's 100-minute running time. Crocodile Dundee III, anyone?

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