Promised Land (1987 film)

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Promised Land
Promised land poster (1987).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Hoffman
Produced byRick Stevenson
Written byMichael Hoffman
Music byJames Newton Howard
CinematographyAlexander Gruszynski
Ueli Steiger
Edited byDavid Spiers
Distributed byVestron Pictures
Release date
September 1987, (Deauville Film Festival),
  • January 22, 1988 (1988-01-22) (United States)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$316,199 (US)[1]

Promised Land is a 1987 drama film written and directed by Michael Hoffman and starring Kiefer Sutherland and Meg Ryan. Set in Utah, the film is apparently based on a true story. It was the first film to be commissioned by the Sundance Film Festival, and uses the drama over economic class and manhood to critique the Reagan Administration.


The film opens by following two American high school acquaintances, a few years after graduation. They are now suffering from deep anger and anguish, because they are not as successful as they hoped to be. Hancock is the high school basketball star who gets into college on an athletic scholarship only to lose the scholarship to a better player. Unable to succeed in college based on his academic merit, he returns to his hometown, becomes a police officer and is slowly moving into a middle-class mediocrity with his cheerleader girlfriend, Mary, who is in college and plans to major in the arts. Hancock is still stewing over the fact that he is no longer the sports star and that his girlfriend is not only reluctant to marry him but may end up being more successful than he.

Danny is the academic "nerd" who was supposedly destined to be so successful that he earned the nickname "Senator". It was felt by some that one day he would become a decent and just politician. He has returned home with his unrestrained, unpredictable, overbearing bride, Bev.

After a quick Christmas Eve reunion with his parents, Danny learns that his father is dying. He is unable to accept that while he left town with great expectations, he has returned a poor drifter. His desire to run from his problems again, however, prompts Bev to mock his manhood in front of some of his high school friends at a bar and the two decide to hold up a convenience store perhaps as a means for Danny to prove his manhood or because that is just what "Hollywood white trash" would do.

Just then, Hancock, unaware that Danny has returned to town, drives into the store's parking lot arguing with his girlfriend about the future of their relationship. Interrupting the robbery, he fatally shoots Danny and wounds Bev. Hancock then suffers something of an emotional breakdown. Danny and Hancock are shown to really have little in common except that Danny once had a crush on Mary and perhaps a repressed crush on Hancock.

As other police officers and paramedics arrive on scene, Hancock drives with his girlfriend to an open field where he had previously shared, with his police partner, some of his frustrations. He screams to Mary how he feels he has been lied to while growing up. Later Hancock has to personally inform Danny's father that he has killed his son.



Promised Land was filmed in Reno, Nevada and various locations in Utah, with the assistance of the Sundance Institute, and Robert Redford is credited as one of two executive producers. The Utah cities of Salt Lake, Midvale and Lehi are cited in the closing credits. Parts of the film were also shot in Wendover and Provo, Utah.[2]


  1. ^ "Promised Land (1988)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  2. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.

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