Adecent but undistinguished suspenser, "Road Ends" gives a solid cast not quite bold enough character and plot definition. Theatrical prospects are weak, though pic should do OK as a broadcast and rental item. Chris Sarandon plays Maceda, who is on the run from Orosco, the big-time drug trafficker (Miguel Najera) he'd previously been made to testify against as part of a federal-offense swap. Now that latter is out of prison on appeal, suave former real estate agent Maceda's days are numbered. Fed agent Gere (Peter Coyote) hopes to track him down before more of Orosco's murderous cronies do.

Deciding to ambush those foes rather than keep fleeing, Maceda holes up in a nearly abandoned California Central Valley burg. Having an actual paying guest is enough to win over earthy innkeeper Kat (Mariel Hemingway), while her sort-of-boyfriend, lone local cop Gilchrist (Dennis Hopper), is more suspicious.

The hit men start rolling into town after 50 minutes or so, commencing a shooting fracas that oddly seems to attract scant attention. Orosco arrives later — with several henchmen in tow, and Gere just behind — for a final blowout at the abandoned meat-packing plant.

There are some nice bits of acerbic humor in Bill Mesce’s script, but few surprises, and little depth or complexity. Vet cable and theatrical feature helmer Rick King likewise travels this road straight down the middle, maintaining interest without developing notable atmosphere or suspense. Several plot developments (Why does Kat rush to put herself in climactic harm’s way? How did real-estater Maceda get to be such a proficient killing machine?) arise more to fulfill genre conventions than serve any character logic.

While leads all could have used better writing, Sarandon creates a credibly resigned, sympathetic figure; Hemingway’s no-b.s. local gal scores some nicely tart, low-key comic riffs. Hopper has fun moving away from his now-standard villainy, limning a small-town boob whose badge is bigger than his brainpan. Coyote gets the most hackneyed role (and lines) as a stock world-weary investigator. Joanna Gleason has little to do as his Fed superior.

Tech package is slick enough, though some effort at stylishness would have helped; action segs are by-the-numbers. David Mansfield’s music is also routine, save a few more exotic bits liberally influenced by Thomas Newman’s score for “Unstrung Heroes” (one of the most imitated soundtracks in recent years).

Road Ends

Production

A P.M. Entertainment Group production. Produced by Anthony Esposito, Rick King. Executive producers, Joseph Merhi, Richard Pein, George Shamieh, Frank Agrama. Co-producers, Shari Lane Bowles, Chris Sarandon.

Crew

Directed by Rick King. Screenplay, Bill Mesce. Camera (color), Bruce Douglas Johnson; editor, Daniel Loewenthal; music, David Mansfield; production design, John Larena, Helen Harwell; costumes, Amber Garcia; sound (Dolby), Mike Gitman; line producer, John Kelly; casting, Mark Sikes

With

Gilchrist ..... Dennis Hopper Gene Gere ..... Peter Coyote Estaban Maceda ..... Chris Sarandon Armacost ..... Joanna Gleason Kat ..... Mariel Hemingway Roger Modine ..... Geoffrey Thorne Arliss ..... Bert Remsen Mama ..... Patricia Van Ingen Orosco ..... Miguel Najera
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