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Film review: Most Wanted

Wayans' performance too wooden, but seasoned cast provides oddball humor.

In the 1989 comedy "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka!" Keenen Ivory Wayans helped send up the "blaxploitation" flicks of the '70s. Ironically, he's now created a '90s version of those same films with his latest, the dopey conspiracy thriller "Most Wanted."

Actually, the film isn't as terrible as you might think — it's just bad. There's some perverse joy to be had in seeing veteran actors Paul Sorvino, Jon Voight and Robert Culp ham it up on the big screen together, and there is a lot of surprising oddball humor (at least let's hope these scenes were meant to be funny).

But as far as the action genre is concerned, "Most Wanted" offers nothing new to it, save for some strong evidence that not only can't Wayans the actor carry a film like this on his own, he shouldn't be allowed to write one by himself either.

Wayans stars as Sgt. James Dunn, a trained sharpshooter serving time in prison for accidentally killing a superior during the Persian Gulf War. As the movie begins, he is visited by Lt. Col. Grant Casey (Voight), leader of a covert organization code-named "Black Sheep."

Casey offers to free Dunn if he'll assassinate Donald Bickhart (Culp), an industrialist accused of selling deadly biotechnology on the black market. But during the operation, one of the commandos instead kills the first lady, and Dunn is framed for it.

On the run from the police and Casey (who is actually a Pentagon official named Gen. Woodward!), Dunn kidnaps Victoria Constantini (Jill Hennessy), an eyewitness with a videotape that will clear him — evidence he's hoping to get to CIA Deputy Director Rackmill (Sorvino), who's somewhat sympathetic to his plight.

Aside from its wildly improbable premise and plot development, the film's biggest flaw is Wayans himself, who displays a good physical flair for his role but who has virtually no dramatic range whatsoever. (It's odd that he is so wooden delivering his lines when he actually wrote them.)

First-time director David Glenn Hogan, a former music-video director, acquits himself nicely, though, as he keeps the action pretty brisk. Besides, it would be hard to hate a director who wisely avoids giving supporting actor Eric Roberts anything to do.

"Most Wanted" is rated R for violent gunfire and fistfights, profanity, a few vulgar references and jokes, a brief nude swimming scene and some brief gore.