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Chain Reaction

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Chain Reaction

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Morgan Freeman
Director: Andrew Davis
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 106 Minutes
Release Date: August 1996
Genres: Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Rachel Weisz, Fred Ward, Kevin Dunn, Brian Cox, Joanna Cassidy, Chelcie Ross, Nicholas Rudall, Tzi Ma

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewvideo review
2.  Dragan Antulov read the review movie reviewvideo review

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

For those of you who truly believe that Elvis is still alive, I have a picture that you will find plausible, CHAIN REACTION. For the rest of us, we will have to enjoy the film for the action alone.

Just so you can get a feel for how much you will have to suspend disbelief, try a few of these on for size. Eddie Kasalivich (Keanu Reeves) is just a student machinist, but at home by himself he comes up with the key breakthrough on the most important scientific invention of at least the Twentieth Century. With a single glass of water the scientists are able to unleash enough energy literally to power the entire city of Chicago for a whole month. Not only is the energy of colossal power, it is also free.

In the silliest notion of all, if this free energy technology is given to the world we learn that all of the stock markets and all of the world's economies will immediately collapse because companies depend on making money off of energy. Think about this one for a minute. With the exception of the energy companies, all of the other companies would have fantastically profitable years since a key part of their cost structure would vanish. The stock markets would have the biggest bull market they have ever seen.

At any rate, we learn all of this crazy pop science in the first few minutes, and then is on to the heart of the show. The lab where Eddie, Dr. Lily Sinclair (Rachel Weisz), and others work is blown up. The special effects are terrific. Although it is not a nuclear explosion, it looks like one.

The only people not killed in the blast are Eddie and Lily. Someone sets them up to look like they are who set up the explosion. The show is about who actually did the bombing and who is trying to steal the free energy. I would like to reveal the groups involved in the bombing so I could rant and rave about how ridiculous it is, but I will resist. The movie's conclusion is not only tedious - it is stupid as well.

The best part of the movie is that it has Morgan Freeman in it as super-rich and highly mysterious Paul Shannon. Shannon has been getting billions of dollars over the years from the congress, the CIA, most major industries, etc., but no one seems to know anything about it since it is all top secret. Yes, that old credibility problem again. The good news is Freeman gets to speak some. The bad news is that the writers (Michael Bortman and J. F. Lawton based on a story by Josh Friedman, Arne Schmidt, and Rick Seaman) have Freeman spend most of the time just twirling a cigar in his mouth and saying nothing.

Beside the impressive special effects (Nick Davis), the cinematography (Frank Tidy) is awesome. Watch how the editors (Donald Brochu, Dov Hoenig, and Arthur Schmidt) cut between shots of cold, gray snow at night to pictures of the power of the energy in the lab. The music (Jerry Goldsmith) is far from subtle. Most scenes have the horns blaring just to remind you of how much danger our heroes are in.

One key piece of special effects is absurd. The machine they use to produce the energy looks like it came from a 1930s science fiction movie. Imagine a large washing machine with glass sides that shakes like crazy, and that has a few dryer hoses coming out of it that appear to be about to come unconnected and spill water everywhere. Behind it put a large oven with big open flames. Make it all constantly just about to blow like an overheated boiler on a sternwheeler. Trust me; it is actually even less believable than my description.

The director for CHAIN REACTION is Andrew Davis. His specialty is movies with lots of violence and heavy special effects components. These include: ABOVE THE LAW, UNDER SIEGE, and THE FUGITIVE. This movie is not near as good as any of these successful past efforts. He also made other films that I have not seen which were perhaps as bad as this one. He sets way too serious a tone for such a ridiculous show as CHAIN REACTION. A little humor would have helped immensely.

Although Reeves delivers an acceptable performance, the same can not be said of his sidekick. Relative newcomer Weisz, who has a small part in STEALING BEAUTY, plays the woman in danger role with little intelligence and not much emotion. It is hard to believe that she is either super smart or super scared as she should be based on the plot. Weisz seems mainly oblivious to the world. If she has any talent, it is not in evidence in this movie nor is it in STEALING BEAUTY. A nice small good performance is given by ever reliable Fred Ward as FBI Agent Leon Ford. In another small role Brian Cox overacts as unbelievable bad guy Lyman Earl Collier.

CHAIN REACTION runs 1:46. It is rated PG-13 for gobs of non-graphic violence. There is no sex or nudity, and I did not catch any bad language. The film would be fine for any kid over say 10. I do no recommend the show, but if you go, you'll probably enjoy the stunts and the action.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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