White Light (1991)

Rating:

Canada. 1991.

Crew

Director – Al Waxman, Screenplay – Ron Base, Producer – Anthony Kramreither, Photography – Bert Dunk, Music – Paul Zaza, Production Design – Ray Lorenz. Production Company – Bellemonde Films

Cast

Martin Kove (Detective Sean Craig), Martha Henry (Dr Ella Wingwright), Allison Hossack (Rachel Rutledge), George Sperdakos (David Ramon), Heidi von Palleske (Debra Halifax), Bruce Boa (Clay Avery), James Purcell (Bill Docherty), Heath Lamberts (Andy Wesley), Raoul Trujillo (Santiago ‘Hatchet’ Hatcher)

Plot

Police detective Sean Craig’s undercover work is responsible for the arrest of mobster David Ramon. Craig is then shot in retaliation by a hitman. In the afterlife, Craig meets a woman who introduces herself as Rachel Rutledge. They kiss before Craig is pulled back to his body and revives on the autopsy table. He sets out to find Rachel and discovers that she is a model who may have been killed by Ramon’s men. During the course of his investigation, he discovers that Rachel may still be alive and races to find her before Ramon’s men kill her.

White Light is a Canadian-made afterlife drama. It only ever received a cable and video distribution when it came out and was quickly forgotten. The surprise name in the director’s seat is Canadian actor Al Waxman, who is probably most well known as the captain on tv’s Cagney and Lacey (1982-8). (Waxman also recruits one of his Cagney and Lacey sidekicks Martin Kove as the hero of the film). Al Waxman made a handful of other films as director, including the My Pleasure is My Business (1975) starring real life prostitute Xaviera Hollander; Tulips (1981), a romantic film about a suicidal old man; and subsequently the caper film The Diamond Fleece (1992) and the action film Death Junction before his death in 2001. It should be noted that most of these have attained particularly bad notices.

White Light is a dreadful film on almost all levels. It is more than possible that it was rushed out to capitalise on the box-office interest in afterlife themes that came out the year before with Flatliners (1990) and Ghost (1990). The story is silly – the potentially interesting afterlife angle is only a gimmick, which quickly becomes forgotten as the film turns into a detective story. Of course, what exactly is going on in the afterlife is a major puzzle – it fails to make a great deal of sense that Martin Kove should be meeting Allison Hossack in the afterlife while he was dead as her death is later revealed to have been faked in order to fool mobster George Sperdakos. On the other hand, White Light fails to work as detective story either as the web that winds the mobster whose organisation Martin Kove is infiltrating, the girl he meets in the afterlife and his co-workers into one convoluted plot is a ridiculously contrived house of cards that fails to stand up as believable at all. In its most authentic moments, the film convincingly paints a picture of Martin Kove as a man being driven crazy by a vision of the afterlife.

Al Waxman’s direction is awful, especially when it comes to the action scenes. The street shootout and particularly the fight in the police station between Martin Kove and Raoul Trujillo are ridiculously unconvincing – at various points, Trujillo and Kove are trying to strangle each other with wooden posts and ponytails.

Martin Kove, who had a brief career in the mid-90s as an action star, is an actor who always suggests that he never has a huge amount going on between his ears. On the other hand, Martha Henry as the concerned doctor opposite him at least plays with a likeably dry wit.


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