Love and Other Drugs: White Cargo (1996)

Cops! Triads! The Mafia! Shannon Tweed! It’s all going on in this David Bradley-starring thriller. Dave takes a look…

“I’m afraid to say there is a mistake on the IMDb listing,” remarked a representative at the Dublin-based talent group, Lorraine Brennan Management, in response to my request for a chat with Daniel Reardon, the writer-director of the ’90s action-thriller WHITE CARGO. Here at The Schlock Pit, we’re more inclined to call it a ‘Powellism’ in honour of the old goof-ridden database entry (now since corrected) for actor-cum-poet John Marcus Powell that led Matty on a wild goose chase a few years ago. “Our Dan Reardon was only aware of the 1942 Hedy Lamarr film,” continued their apologetic reply, “which I presume must be the 1996 film’s spiritual prequel?”

Alas, this White Cargo is far removed from a rubber plantation set love triangle featuring Lamarr, Walter Pidgeon and Richard Carlson – although we are treated to a similar game of betrayal that stems from the complex affairs of police detective Joe Hargatay (David Bradley). Hargatay’s latest case focuses on the murder of Jessica Darden (Jennifer Campbell), the step-daughter of an influential senator (Peter Henry Schroeder) and a model for a sketchy agency that’s ran by Alexia (Shannon Tweed) and ably assisted by Robert (Tom Dugan) – a sleazy yet camp sort who seems to sleep with every beauty that he snaps.

“What a waste of a fine pair of tits,” laments Greasy (Kevin Quigley), a degenerate crime scene photographer who exemplifies the morally bereft ensemble of characters that litter (the right/wrong) Daniel Reardon’s urban potboiler. The dizzying list of suspects range from the Italian mafia to the Chinese triads – but caught in the middle of it all is Hargatay’s ex-wife, Janice (Lydie Denier – who pops up initially in a leather bar). And, naturally, Hargatay still carries a torch for her.

A former car salesman and musician, the Texas-born Bradley’s brief flirtation with the movie business lasted for only fifteen movies, but I’d take a confident punt that White Cargo is his best performance. Looking dapper in a wardrobe of swanky double-breasted suits, he has an air of arrogance as the steely-eyed cop with a weighty bank balance, who thinks nothing of dropping five-figure cheques in the hands of his acquaintances.

The whole shebang is a tad convoluted, lop-sided, and identity-blurred, but having such a rousing line-up of hoodlums woven into the dimly lit L.A. underbelly in which it’s set gives White Cargo a certain fatalistic electricity. Indeed, these warring factions are primed to explode with the expectancy of a poorly assembled detonator and, when the inevitable happens, the operatic violence that peppers the final two reels is spiked with enough squibs to make John Woo blush.

Tweed being confined to a bit part comes with an element of regret, but the film moves with such a pace that you barely notice. Similarly, Bradley’s moments of guitar-wielding introspection and post-coital martial arts posturing are cloying and clichéd. Still, they’re forgivable. Just.

Produced by Bob Burge (The House on Todville Road (1994)), White Cargo was shot over the course of four weeks in the fall of 1995 and hit tape in the December of the following year via Third Coast Entertainment (who also had a hand in Tibor Takacs’ mighty fine Viper (1994)).

USA ● 1996 ● Thriller ● 97mins

David Bradley, Shannon Tweed, Lydie Denier, Tom ‘Tiny’ Lister ● Dir./Wri. Daniel Reardon

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