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Extreme Measures

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Extreme Measures

Starring: Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman
Director: Michael Apted
Rated: R
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: September 1996
Genres: Mystery, Suspense

*Also starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, David Morse, Bill Nunn, Debra Monk, Paul Guilfoyle, John Toles-Bey, Peter Appel

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

In Manhattan's gray dawn, two naked men burst out of a steel door. Stumbling and falling all over themselves, they somehow manage to escape the unknown horror hidden in the skyscraper above them. Thus starts Michael Apted's EXTREME MEASURES in a beginning evocative of TWELVE MONKEYS.

Always imaginative director Apted has given us a wide varied of wonderful films. His documentary series 21UP, 28UP, and 35UP are among my all time favorite films and a must see for any cinema buff. He makes unusual films like NELL and true stories like GORILLAS IN THE MIST and COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER. As he showed in GORKY PARK and does again here in EXTREME MEASURES, he is also a master at the thriller genre.

Thrillers have good guys and bad. As Hitchcock taught us, the best thrillers focus on the innocent man in the center. They make sure that the danger he faces is terrifying and just out of his control. Finally, through shear perseverance he somehow manages to thwart the villain. Here, Apted knows these inner truths as the master craftsman Hitchcock has laid them down.

One of these naked men from the skyscraper shows up in the emergency room run by Dr. Guy Luthan (Hugh Grant). The patient's heart and all of his bodily functions race wildly and then calm like passing through the eye of a hurricane. As Dr. Luthan later puts it, "The guy had a total medical meltdown." After a few cycles of this, the patient dies. This scene happens early in the show and serves not only to set up the plot, but also to get the audience's adrenaline pumping wildly in sync with the dying man. Apted's craftsmanship shines.

We switch to the home of Dr. Lawrence Myrick (Gene Hackman) who is celebrating receiving the prestigious Wainwright award for neurological medicine. His daughter reads him a congratulatory telegram from the White House.

Back at the morgue, they seemed to have misplaced the body. A mysterious coroner shrugs and tells Dr. Luthan, "Your hospital's been known to lose persons both living and dead." Confused at what is going on and what, if any role, the coroner has in it, Dr. Luthan tells him, "You're quite a creepy person."

Grant gives a sympathetic and convincing performance as the everyday doctor who gets sucked into the vortex of some gruesome terror and has no idea what is going. When he tries to figure it out, all of the important files are missing. Soon his life will take a dramatic turn for the worse and then go totally down the drain. The story is about him solving the mystery and proving what he has found to the police. It is created in such a way that the audience is in total empathy with the lead character. He has a periodic sidekick, a nurse named Jodie Trammel (Sarah Jessica Parker), who is sometimes there for him.

Equally well cast is Hackman as a benevolent Nazi concentration camp style doctor who proclaims that, "we can change medicine forever." Like Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) in SCHINDLER'S LIST, Dr. Myrick gives the appearance of being a sweet and compassionate person, but underneath lurks the evil. The script by Tony Gilroy (based on the novel by Michael Palmer) minimize Hackman's screen time so that the attention is kept on Dr. Luthan's troubles.

I can't tell you any more of the show other than to say that every time you think you have it all figured out, you haven't. Although the medical conspiracy and most of the rest of the show is made believable, there is a homeless syndicate that isn't. Finally, there is an unnecessary and confusing epilogue. Why it is there, I have no idea other than perhaps it is a failed attempt to address some criticisms made during the test screenings.

EXTREME MEASURES runs 1:58. It is rated R for violence, emergency room gore, some bad language, and brief nudity. There is no sex. Teenagers will probably like the show, but it would be inappropriate for younger kids. I recommend the picture to you and give it ***.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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