originally penned by Kurosawa, the film ended up being made in america by a russian. i don’t know when Kurosawa wrote the screenplay, but i’d guess it was sometime in the mid-70s, around the time he did dersu uzala. the first thing that struck me was eric roberts’ acting – it pretty much sucks. but here’s the thing, if Kurosawa had done the picture i think that roberts’ character would have worked well. Kurosawa just has a knack for filming buffoons in an uncorny way. and that’s exactly what roberts is here – an over-acting buffoon up against a capable jon voight. i could easily see Kurosawa directing this picture because his pictures typical exhibit this very dynamic – think yojimbo. as it was, though, eric roberts’ acting came off as a bit over-the-top, though it did settle down as the film progressed.
the score was a bit dated, but also had some rather good, powerful moments. it was done by trevor jones who is still scoring films today and has worked on some relatively good pictures, including a version of richard III which is interesting because this film ends with a quote from richard III (something along the lines of “all beasts have a certain measure of pity, but i’m not a beast”).
i liked the choice of director because having a russian film the picture brings a gritty artistry and a greater ability to film the alaskan landscape. despite the films shortcomings, it delivers in the end and has some good themes.