Years before Jonathan Demme made the great thriller The Silence of the Lambs, he made this non-great thriller firmly and boringly in the Hitchcock vein. Roy Scheider is a government agent whose wife was killed in front of him during an attempt on his life. He thinks the agency wants him dead, but someone else does, too. The plot (taken from Murray Leigh Bloom’s novel The 13th Man) has something to do with New England Jews and white slavery; Janet Margolin, as an anthropologist who’s more than meets the eye, seduces Scheider and gives a performance that explains why her career didn’t survive the ’70s.
Demme puts nothing of himself into these paranoid shenanigans — the movie is all too transparently his attempt to do something bankable. This was also Christopher Walken’s first post-Oscar movie, which shouldn’t raise your hopes; playing Scheider’s untrustworthy boss with a wispy mustache, Walken is funny but is only in it for about three minutes. John Glover, with another awful mustache, plays some sort of scholar stuck on Margolin; he’s completely expendable. Demme regular Charles Napier steals the movie as Scheider’s former brother-in-law, a hit man — Napier knows how to sell a line like “If I wanted you dead, you wouldn’t be walkin’.”