Promised Land is a pregnant drama about aimless Middle American lives that never delivers. Produced in Utah near where it was developed at the Sundance Institute, pic covers familiar, unexciting ground as it looks at four thoroughly unremarkable young people who never come close to getting things together.
Writer-director Michael Hoffman starts his story off on the basketball court, where Davey (Jason Gedrick) wins the game for the high school home team, much to the delight of friend and admirer Danny (Kiefer Sutherland) and g.f. Mary (Tracy Pollan).
Within two years, Gedrick’s life consists of making the rounds of sleepy Ashville as a cop in a squad car, and Pollan has matured at college. By contrast, the bashful Sutherland has left town to find himself, only to return with a bride, hellcat Bev (Meg Ryan), whom he married three days after meeting her. Once she arrives in Ashville to meet the folks, this outsider brings senseless tragedy to the group of old friends.
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Many scenes are extended to the point that all potential dramatic tension is drained out of them. A cattle prod would have been a useful tool on the set, as the actors show boundless earnestness and little energy except for Ryan, whose role calls for her to be dangerously wild and reckless in a sexy, silly way, something she manages just fine.