Formosa Betrayed

Like any former TV star with free time and a cause that has caught his eye, James Van Der Beek could have done a voice-over for a documentary about Taiwan’s bloody struggle for independence — instead, he plays an FBI agent in this educational thriller set in early-1980s Taiwan. After a Chicago prologue suggests that a Taiwanese-American professor and human-rights advocate may have been killed by gang members hired from across the Pacific, Jake Kelly (Van Der Beek) is dispatched to the embattled island for a look-see. Welcomed by fishy local officials and a flinty embassy liaison (Wendy Crewson), Jake starts applying his two investigative techniques: shouting “FBI!” while running full-tilt at uncomprehending local police and getting pulled into doorways by underground resisters to the nationalist government. Neither the investigation nor the suspense (hobbled by editorializing) has much impact; the movie, necessarily shot in Thailand, plays like secret-history tourism, complete with archival footage haunting the screen. True to the genre, a question raised by Jake — “What about the truth?” — is, incredibly, summarily dismissed.

Categories: Movies