Coming soon to a video store near you: “North Star,” a drearily uninspired outdoor adventure that Warners is giving minimal theatrical exposure in a handful of secondary markets. This is one of those ill-starred international co-productions in which half of the actors appear to be dubbed, and no one seems to be terribly enthusiastic.
Set in and around Nome, Alaska, circa 1899, but filmed on location in the snowy climes of Norway, “North Star” is a formulaic story about gold fever and greedy land-grabbers. Christopher Lambert, who also served as executive producer, plays a heroic half-breed with the colorful name of Hudson Ipsehawk. Hudson lays claim to a gold-rich site near the small town controlled by villainous businessman Sean McLennon (James Caan). But Hudson doesn’t want to mine the land, because that would destroy a cave that his Intuit ancestors consider sacred.
Unfortunately, McLennon has designs on Hudson’s land. Even more unfortunately, McLennon is not above killing anyone who refuses to sell land that he wishes to mine.
After surviving an attack by McLennon’s thugs, Hudson visits the nearby town. But just when our hero gets the drop on McLennon, the thugs show up again. So Hudson takes flight — and takes McLennon’s girlfriend, Sarah (Catherine McCormack), as a hostage during his escape.
This leads to an interminable chase through the wilderness, as McLennon and a posse of his flunkies pursue Hudson and his initially hostile captive. Eventually, Sarah comes to realize that Hudson is telling the truth: Her boyfriend really isn’t a very nice man. But she reaches this conclusion only after she sees McLennon and his men murder the soldiers and lawman who have been sent out to corral the posse.
Caan bulges his eyes a lot, quotes Shakespeare, and flies into a homicidal rage at the drop of a snowflake. And yet, for all that, he makes a singularly lackluster villain. Still, at least he evidences some camera presence. Lambert is so stiff and colorless as the nominal hero that he generates little sympathy, and even less excitement. Worse, he delivers his lines in a voice that sounds like a bad Peter Lorre imitation.
Speaking of distracting accents: McCormack, last seen in “Braveheart,” sounds unmistakably British while playing Sarah. Considering how virulently hostile McLennon is toward “foreigners,” it seems more than a little odd for him to have one as his main squeeze. McCormack evidences some attractive feistiness in a couple of scenes, but she can do little with such a thinly written role.
Under the limp direction of Norwegian helmer Nils Gaup (“The Pathfinder,” “Shipwrecked”), “North Star” moves as slowly as a glacier. Tech credits, including color lensing by the normally reliable Bruno De Keyzer, are no better than they have to be.