Everybody, including the audience, gets a good workout in Shoot to Kill, a rugged, involving manhunt adventure [story by Harv Zimmel] in which a criminal leads his pursuers over what is perhaps the most challenging land route out of the United States.
Sidney Poitier establishes his authority immediately as a veteran FBI man in San Francisco who, despite handling the crisis with calm assuredness, cannot prevent the getaway of a jewel thief who kills hostages on a foggy night on Frisco Bay.
Another shooting of a similar type takes Poitier up to the Pacific Northwest, where he is forced to engage the services of tough backwoodsman Tom Berenger to lead him up into the mountains to apprehend the villain before he makes it over the border into Canada.
A self-styled macho hermit, Berenger considers Poitier a cityfied softy incapable of making it in the mountains. This sets up a cliched enmity between the two men that one knows will have to be broken down, but not without some predictable jibes at Poitier’s awkwardness outdoors and some revelations of Berenger’s own vulnerabilities.
Poitier, 63 when the film was shot, looks little more than 40. The actor’s directness and easiness on the screen are refreshing, his humor self-deprecating and understated.
Berenger solidly fills the bill as the confident mountain man, and Kirstie Alley, despite the extreme limitations of her role, proves entirely believable as his female counterpart. British Columbia locations give the film tremendous scenic impact.