North Star
aka Tashunga

North Star

France/Italy/Norway/UK, 1995. Rated R. 88 minutes.

Cast: James Caan, Christopher Lambert, Catherine McCormack, Burt Young, Morten Faldaas, Mary M. Walker, Jacques François, Frank Salsedo, Reidar Sørensen
Writers: Sergio and Lorenzo Donati, Paul Ohl, based on the novel The North Star by Will Henry
Original Music: Ennio Morricone, John Scott, Bruce Rowland (songs)
Cinematography: Bruno de Keyzer
Producer: Anne François
Director: Nils Gaup


Grade: D- Review by Carlo Cavagna

S et in Nome, Alaska during the Gold Rush (though filmed in Norway), North Star is a dour, politically correct film condemning the theft and rape of Native American land. In North Star (released as Tashunga in most European territories), the evil white men are led by Sean McLennon (James Caan), and the victimized Indians are represented by Hudson Ipsehawk (Christopher Lambert, a white man playing a “half-breed” and wearing skin toner to make him darker). Lambert is obviously not a politically correct casting decision, but with Lambert as the executive producer, there was no other choice.

North Star
North Star U.S. video box cover.

The de facto ruler of Nome, McLennon is acquiring claims to all the surrounding territory. His tack is to murder the owner of a particular claim, then buy the claim at auction. As the film opens, McLennon's men, led by Burt Young (Rocky), attempt to kill Ipsehawk for the claim he filed to protect the sacred grounds of the Eskimos with whom he lives. One thing leads to another, and McLennon is chasing Ipsehawk on dog sleds after Ipsehawk kidnaps McLennon's girlfriend (Catherine McCormack) in supposed self defense. Meanwhile, in a simplistic irony, as McLennon tries to take land away from the real natives, he nullifies all claims made by “foreigners” (non-U.S. citizens), who all seem to be Norwegian (gee, wonder why).

Though North Star did receive a limited theatrical release in some markets, it is a crude straight-to-video production of a crude straight-to-video story. As always, Lambert does his enigmatic, melancholy hero thing. He's in poor form, however, looking more cross-eyed than usual and his voice sounding like a car downshifting into first gear without a clutch. Lambert delivers an entirely humorless, stone-faced performance, as is his tendency when he thinks he is doing Something Important (The Sicilian, To Kill a Priest). It is left to Caan, who for some reason has done a number of these straight-to-video films in recent years (Luckytown, In the Shadows), to relieve the tedium with the same affable bad-guy routine he used in Erasure. Meanwhile, McCormack (Braveheart, Dangerous Beauty), the Next Big Thing who never became one, acts her butt off without discernibly improving the film. The arctic scenery is probably the best reason to watch, though on pan-and-scan VHS video, it is not as breathtaking as it could be.

Review © April 2005 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 1996 Warner Home Video. All Rights Reserved.

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