Poitier plays FBI agent Warren Stantin, and the film opens tensely as an unseen kidnapper is demanding diamonds in exchange for the wife of jewelry store owner. Stantin negotiates the exchange, but things turn bad…the wife is killed and the killer outsmarts Stantin and gets away.
Tracking the killer takes Stantin from San Francisco to northern Washington, where the murderer has joined a tour group of fishermen and outdoorsmen that is being led through the wilderness by guide Sarah Renell (Kirstie Alley). The tension mounts as director Roger Spottiswoode doesn't reveal the identity of the killer until the last necessary moment – instead having the audience guess from a list of actors that include Andrew Robinson, Clancy Brown, Richard Masur and Frederick Coffin.
Meanwhile Stantin has found a guide to lead him into the mountains in pursuit of the killer. His name is Jonathan Knox (Tom Berenger, in perhaps his best role to date), who knows as much about the woods as Stantin does about catching criminals…leading to some great situations and plenty of comedic moments between the two characters.
Spottiswoode has a difficult task here…that of both directing the comedy between Stantin and Knox, yet not making light of the tension and seriousness involved in trying to catch the killer. But he works it out perfectly. Shoot To Kill is one of those rare movies that will have you on the edge of your seat at one moment, then rolling on the floor with laughter the next. It's one of the most entertaining films ever made.
Presented for the first time on home video in it's original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, the anamorphic transfer here is a good one, although the film is showing it's age a bit…with a noticeable amount of dirt and flecks on the print. I should also note that since Spottiswoode really plays with the edges of the screen here, those with widescreen TVs that have even the slightest bit of overscan are probably going to notice it when playing the movie. The fact that I've never noticed the overscan on my own TV, yet noticed it immediately with Shoot To Kill should indicate just how much the director uses all of the 2.35:1 frame.
Presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, the audio track here is really nice and sounds great. It's not as aggressive as some 5.1 tracks for more recent movies, but everything seems properly balanced and there was enough "oomph" to the soundtrack to make it enjoyable. Although not really part of the audio transfer, I have to add a few "props" in this review to the composer of the soundtrack for Shoot To Kill, John Scott. It's one of the few scores that has stuck in my head over the years, and it's as much a part of this movie as the acting and visuals are.
Okay, here's where I get to blast Disney/Touchstone a bit. Despite the box office receipts (which still earned a respectable $30 million in 1988), this is one of the finest films in the Touchstone catalog…so why the bare bones treatment? Other than the chapter selection and audio set-up, there's nothing on this DVD aside from a front-loaded advertisement for other Touchstone titles. The good news is that the price of this disc is a real bargain. Most retailers have it for under $12 and a bit of searching and you should be able to find it for around $10…a real steal for such a great film!
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you've seen Shoot To Kill already, I'm assuming you already have a copy in your home, so there's no need to preach to the choir. However, if you are one of the unfortunate who missed this film in 1988 and have never caught it on home video or TV, run (don't walk) to your computer or nearby DVD store and pick this one up…you'll be glad you did. Bare bones or not, Shoot To Kill is a classic, and it gets a high recommendation from me.