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Grade C-: 'Formosa Betrayed' fizzles out

Tom Long
James Van Der Beek plays an FBI agent who uncovers a Taiwan government plot after a professor is killed in Chicago.

An obviously heartfelt but somewhat stilted and disjointed look at oppression in Taiwan during the 1980s, "Formosa Betrayed" might play well with people caught up in the politics of that time. Others, not so much.

James Van Der Beek stars as FBI agent Jake Kelly, assigned to solve the murder of a Taiwanese-American college professor in Chicago. After suspects fire on Kelly and flee to Taiwan, he pursues.

Unfortunately, it turns out Taiwan is basically a military state run by refugees from mainland China since the rise of communism. And Kelly soon discovers that the professor, who was writing a book about the distressed state of his homeland, was likely a political target.

With the Taiwanese government actively trying to distract him, Kelly pushes forth in his investigation, eventually enlisting the help of Ming (screenwriter Will Tiao) to uncover the truth.

That truth becomes more ungainly as the film progresses, but you get the general idea that the government ordered the hit and is run by not very nice people. And, as always in these kinds of films, the U.S. has some complicity.

Kelly does a lot of running this way and that, and eventually we get to the inevitable torture sequence, which is thankfully brief. In the end it comes down to, as it so often does, one man standing up against The System.

The problem is you never really get to see what that one man accomplished, if anything, and the whole frenzy seems a bit remote since Taiwan became a democracy in the '90s. As a result, "Formosa Betrayed" fizzles out.

Rating: R for violence. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. Theater: Galaxy Highland.