When I made out my schedule of reviews for Embracing the Melodrama, I did not realize that I was setting myself up for a mini-marathon of Kiefer Sutherland movies but somehow, that’s exactly what happened! No sooner had I watched and jotted down my impressions of Bright Lights, Big City and 1969, then I started watching a 1988 film called Promised Land (which should not be confused with the recent Matt Damon/Jon Krasinski fracking film).
And guess who stars in this particular film?
That’s right — Kiefer Sutherland!
Now, if Bright Lights, Big City featured Kiefer as a sociopath and 1969 featured Kiefer as a blonde-haired golden boy, Promised Land features Kiefer as a prototypical outsider.
Promised Land opens at a high school basketball game. Hancock (Jason Gedrick) is the handsome and popular jock who is a star on the court and who is dating a cheerleader named Mary (Tracy Pollan). Danny (Kiefer Sutherland) is the nerdy kid who gets good grades and who is nicknamed Senator because he wants to enter politics. He has an obvious crush on Mary but also appears to have one on Hancock as well. As Hancock runs up and down the court, nobody cheers louder than Danny. Meanwhile, Hancock barely knows who Danny is.
Three years later and things have changed. Hancock, having gone to college on an athletic scholarship just to drop out and return home, is now a vaguely fascistic police officer. Mary has remained in college. When she returns home for Christmas break, Hancock tries to rekindle their relationship but Mary has moved on.
Meanwhile, Danny has dropped out of school as well. After spending a few years drifting around, he meets the lively, vivacious, and totally insane Bev (Meg Ryan). He and Bev get married in Las Vegas and decide to head back to Danny’s hometown for Christmas…
Drama, violence, and tragedy follow!
But you already guessed that, didn’t you? That’s one of the problems with Promised Land. From the minute that Bev says that she wants to meet Danny’s family, you can tell exactly how this story is going to end. And while a predictable plot can sometimes be redeemed by memorable performances, that’s not the case with Promised Land. Kiefer Sutherland and Meg Ryan both give good and dangerous performances but Jason Gedrick and Tracy Pollan make for a boring couple.
(Interestingly enough, Tracy Pollan was also in Bright Lights, Big City.)
Promised Land does have some historical significance, in that it was the first film to ever be partially funded by the Sundance Institute. Robert Redford is listed as an executive producer. But, historical significance aside, there’s really not much about Promised Land to really recommend going to the effort to try to track it down. It’s not so much bad as just very forgettable.