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
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
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
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
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