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Shoot to Kill

Shoot to Kill (1988)

February. 12,1988
| Drama Action Thriller Crime

When a cunning murderer vanishes into the rugged mountains of the Pacific Northwest, pursuing FBI agent Warren Stantin must exchange familiar city streets for unknown wilderness trails. Completely out of his element, Stantin is forced to enlist the aid of expert tracker Jonathan Knox. It's a turbulent yet vital relationship they must maintain in order to survive... and one that becomes increasingly desperate when Knox's girlfriend Sarah becomes the killer's latest hostage!


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Myriam Nys

Although the movie is set in a contemporary setting, it is basically a traditional Western in a classical vein. A callous criminal commits a crime and tries to escape by crossing the border, even if this means travelling through the wilderness and shooting inoffensive citizens ; a grizzled old sheriff is determined to catch the miscreant and bring him to justice, if necessary with the aid of some unwilling instant-deputies or guides. What follows is a long pursuit, where the brave sheriff and his helpers need to overcome both natural perils and the evil cunning of the criminal. "Shoot to kill" is quite entertaining, with good acting, ingenious stunts (watch out for the Bridge from Hell) and ravishing scenery. I get the impression that it has been largely forgotten - undeservedly so, since it is well worth watching. Sadly there is a hugely illogical plot twist, or plot evolution, which undermines the internal coherence of the story. This illogical twist occurs 4/5ths into the movie and influences the ending. You'll notice it when you see it...


Police in every nation have, over the decades accumulated hundreds of stories concerning the chasing of criminals. Sometimes in the city, sometimes in the country and then there are times when the bad guys try to jump jurisdiction by crossing the boarder. This is one such movie called " Shoot to Kill. " The story is of Steve (Clancy Brown) a very intelligent, very crafty diabolic killer who begins with a B & E, armed assault, robbery, kidnapping and graduates to outright Murder. To combat him the F.B.I. assigns a senior and experienced agent named Warren Stantin (Sidney Poitier). The two meet with a robbery, murder where Steve takes his loot and kills his victim and makes good his escape. Stantin vows he will eventually apprehend him. A short time later, Steve emerges by infiltrating a troop of hikers into the U.S. Canadian mountains, where Steve is once again pursued by Stantin who is helped by Jonathan Knox, (Tom Berenger) a stubborned, but very experienced mountain guide who is determined to save his girlfriend (Kirstie Alley) from the clutches of the killer. In it's cast are several well known actors who have also played heavies, like Richard Masur and Andrew Robinson and make it difficult to identify the real killer. The movie is filled with action, adventure and some light moments between the principals. All in all, it's a good film and one is thankful for allowing Mr. Poitier to return to center stage before the camera. ****


After an eleven year absence from the screen, Sidney Poitier chose to return in an action/adventure film where he plays an FBI agent in search of a killer.He's got good reason to want this guy bad. His quarry is ruthless and kills without mercy. Poitier loses a hostage and the ransom he's asked for. But some good detective work has traced the man to a remote part of the Pacific Northwest.Where the perpetrator has killed again and joined a party of dry fly fishermen being guided by Kirstie Alley into the rugged mountains. No place for a city kid like Poitier, says mountaineer/hermit Tom Berenger who has the prerequisite skills to get the job done. These two are forced into an alliance of inconvenience.The best thing I liked about Shoot To Kill is the guessing game we play for the identity of the perpetrator. Any one of the five men in Kirstie Alley's party could have been the killer. Look at the cast list and you'll recognize a few names who've played some pretty loathsome villains in the past. The identity is revealed suddenly and quite shockingly.What I didn't like with Shoot To Kill is the fact that the final confrontation with the perpetrator is in big city Vancouver where he's escaped with Alley. He needed her in the woods, not any longer, she should have wound up dead. And Berenger and Poitier should have confronted him in the woods.That script decision made the climax a rather ordinary one that you see in a whole lot of police chase films. Still all the players do fine here, my favorite being Kirstie Alley as the woods smart guide.


There is one sure truth about movies, not only that they last forever, but also that our memories last with it. Therefore, whatever how many years passed by; when you watch a certain movie, you recall all of your happy, or unhappy, memories which are connected with the first watching' time, with all of its thoughts and feelings.As for (Shoot to Kill), I was 21 year old when I first watched it. Back then, I've just ended my fourth and final year in faculty of arts, waiting for the result of my exams, exactly like my friend (he was my neighbor too) who was waiting for his result as well, but at the faculty of law. Both of us were movies' freaks, and maybe you'll understand how crazy we were when I tell you that we raced once to finish watching all the movies in one video store near our homes !! I remember that he saw more horror movies than I did, but I surpassed in watching the action and the musical ones. Anyway, it was the glorious glory's days, we were watching movies through our national TV like (Hot To Trot), (Romancing The Stone), (Other People Money); there were all good, so at the theaters too like (X Files "The Film"); although we were disappointed with it, but we were having each other, and ready to watch more movies, better or worse. Through the VHS, we enjoyed a lot of nice ones, and how we got our own dictionary out of the movies' dialogue; to hang a phone call saying (I'll Be Back !) from (The Terminator), or to end a hot conversation peacefully (Opinions are like asses, everybody got one !) from (The Dead Pool), or to be naughty sometimes (Hubba Hubba !) from (Payback) and so on.. On 14/7/1999, I watched (Contact) by (Robert Zemeckis), and my friend just finished (Shoot To Kill), so we recommended every one's movie to each other, to discuss it later, as usual, in our discussion zone : The Gym !I went to read its cover to discover that it's an action thriller that got (Sidney Poitier) as the lead, and (Roger Spottiswoode) as a director, so I rented it enthusiastically. And when I watched it, I just fell in love with it. (Shoot to Kill) was sharp, so solid and more beautiful than most of the above. It's the good old school at its best, and that's ladies and gentlemen my favorite kind of action, not the awful grisly comic books graphic novels video games kind of pace, violence and idiocy (YES, Sin City, Sin Movies !). I see that this good movie got it all. Firstly, the fine screenplay. It's fine because it cared about making good action thriller time with no flaws at all, and – in the same time – showed the comparison of 2 clever men and how everyone, in his own world and by his environment's rules, is a real hero. Actually, it said that the work of any police officer in the city is as hard as the mountain climber's work in the woods. Or that the world is one giant jungle, therefore you must know how to survive, but everyone by their special talents. Look how the magnificent (Poitier) acts so clumsy in the forest, with many wicked details and witty expressions, while (Berenger) was the MAN. But then in the city, it's totally the opposite, where (Poitier) was the master of his civilized yet the same brutal jungle, and (Berenger) turned into the naive one who discovered finally the truth about (Poitier) to tell him during the car chase "You're Crazy!".Furthermore, that strong music, that wonderful cinematography, and that perfect editing; remember the armlet's scene in the beginning; that was unforgettable piece of work as a lesson in how to build a thrill in one short scene. And, naturally, the proficient direction. This movie delivers greatly, particularly in the last 15 minutes; I simply adore this climatic sequence.I loved it to the extent that I watched it for a second time right after the first one immediately. You can find it in my list for the best 100 non-Egyptian movies ever. And it's still an enjoyment to watch that one from the 1980s, thanks mainly to the iconic presence of (Poitier) as an action star here (try to believe that this graceful elegant was 61 years old at the time !!). I didn't find till now an explanation for his 11 years of absence as a movie star from 1977 to 1988 ?! But whatever, he came back to make (Little Nikita – 1988) and (Shoot To Kill – 1988) and really what a huge difference between them both; as one is half good and one is too good ! (I wrote a review about Little Nikita on its IMDb page). So after watching the movie, on the title's date, I remember so joyfully that in the next afternoon I met my friend in the very zone of us, and when I asked him smiling "You FBI guys do this kind of s**t a lot ?" I had him and me answering in the same time imitating Poitier : "Every Damn Day !". Although it's a line which maybe we've heard in other movies or even TV shows before, but when it has Poitier's performance.. It becomes CLASSIC.