Sumptuously produced historical action adventure tale, set in pre-Raj India circa 1825, falls short of fully developing its most interesting theme – the struggle of the rational Western psyche with the supernatural seductions of the East.
Pierce Brosnan is William Savage, a ‘resident collector’ for the British East India Co., which blazed the trail for England’s colonialzation of the Indian subcontinent. A company patrol is mysteriously ambushed and murdered in the dead of night. When Brosnan discovers the bodies in a gruesome mass grave, the fearless, straight-arrow officer is outraged.
A rising company star who has married the commander’s daughter (Helena Michell), he risks his career by setting out to prove the murders are part of a horrifying conspiracy by the Thuggees – a centuries-old, pan-Indian brotherhood of evildoers who worship Kali, the goddess of destruction.
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Adapting John Masters’ fact-derived novel, director Nicholas Meyer makes the most of an opportunity for homage to Alexander Korda adventure movies. As psychological drama, Meyer’s effort to depict Brosnan’s spiritual struggle with dark forces unleashed by Kali-worship is undermined by the actor’s limited range and an elliptical screenplay which fails to exploit the complex possibilities inherent in the cross-cultural confrontation.