Using Indian folklore and mysticism as fodder for a routine psycho-killer yarn doesn’t exactly add up to a bold new leap for American Indian images on film. But that’s the only novel aspect to “ShadowHunter,” a grade-C actioner that bypassed a theatrical release and is bowing on Showtime.
Irrelevant opener finds a prostie blowing her brains out in front of some street kids near a seedy L.A. strip; a bloodied john’s corpse is discovered upstairs in her S&M lair.
It’s just another homicide for world-weary police Lt. Cain (Scott Glenn), whose marriage is on the rocks. Rather than recommending R&R, however, his superior sends him to pick up killer Nakai Twobear (Benjamin Bratt), who’s being held by tribal authorities on his native Navajo reservation.
Twobear is a “Coyote Man” who can “skinwalk” in the souls of weaker men. He makes fast work of Cain, causing a car crash and taking off into the desert. The policeman pursues on horseback with local posse, including obligatory spunky femme tracker.
Romantic interest, false scares and moderate gore arrive exactly on schedule, amid equally expected hard lessons learned by urban tenderfoot hero. Villain is stock cackling madman.
Despite use of a Navaho consultant and some American Indian actors in subsidiary roles, this employment of coyote/tricker figure as a slasher nasty seems rather tasteless.
A few lines about Twobear’s (off screen) victim-skinning serves as cheap echo of Glenn’s appearance in “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Pacing is OK, acting and tech aspects just serviceable.