Showtimes Cargo Delivers Excitement Hindery Hints at Alliances

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Escape: Human Cargo is a fact-based Showtime drama thatbecomes especially suspenseful in the last half-hour.

Treat Williams is Texas businessman John McDonald, whosebook, Flight from Dhahran, serves as this movie's basis. But John seems alittle slow on the uptake for a successful Texas businessman; he's in deep beforerealizing that he can't outsmart his shifty Saudi "partners," Suliman andSheikh Fazza (well portrayed by Israelis Sasson Gabai and Zeev Revach).

Shot in Israel and Toronto, the Middle East settings addconsiderably to the

culture-clash atmosphere of this thriller. Also deservingpraise are the director, Lonesome Dove's Simon Wincer, and executive producersMace Neufeld and Robert Rehme, whose credits include another thriller, Clear andPresent Danger.

John blames his woes on being "too cocky," butwere he not so blinded by greed, he undoubtedly would have avoided hooking up with theseshady Arabs. In the fall of 1977, he's lured to Saudi Arabia by Suliman on thepromise that a prince will fund a prefabricated-housing business. Once John is there,Suliman suggests that Fazza will provide the funding instead.

What was to have been a weeklong visit stretches into thespring of 1978. In the interim, John gets an unexpected lesson in Arab justice --witnessing an adulteress being stoned to death. "It ain't Oklahoma," sayshis new pal, Dennis, a colorful role as played by Stephen Lang.

Then, after ongoing disputes with his partners overcontract terms and who is to spend what, they take him on a late-night limo ride in thedesert, during which McDonald rebuffs the sleazy sheikh's amorous moves. When latertold that he must pay $34,000 in dock-storage fees, an incensed McDonald sues them inlocal court -- and wins.

Soon afterward, he's seized and thrown in prison. Oncebailed out, he learns that Fazza controls his passport and visa, rendering him a prisonerwho must do his partners' bidding.

Disgusted, McDonald concocts an escape plan and builds awooden cargo crate in which to hide. In April 1978, Dennis uses his oil-companycredentials to deliver the box to the airport tarmac. While waiting anxiously, however,John faces new dangers.

Escape: Human Cargo bows March 22 on Showtime at 8 p.m.(EST).

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