Do you like massive conspiracy thrillers? Well, what better place
to center it than right within the White House compound? THE SHADOW
CONSPIRACY, which has all the canonical thriller elements, plays like a
typical television movie. If you can't figure out all of the bad guys
within the first ten minutes of the film, then you have not been
getting your daily adult requirement of mysteries.
As the story opens, a big guy (Stephen Lang) with a silencer on
his gun goes through a think tank killing everyone. Well not exactly
everyone, since Professor Yuri Pochenko (Theodore Bikel) escapes out
the back door.
Meanwhile, at the White House the president (Sam Waterston) is in
the beginning of his second term. He did not rock the boat in the
first term, relying on the latest opinion polls to form his every
decision. He now has a speech he is about to deliver that will slash
military spending and will propose other radical actions that he thinks
are good for the country. He figures that, since he is a lame duck, he
can launch any initiative he likes. Most of his advisers think the
speech will sink the stock market and have dramatic, negative
Charlie Sheen, who was so good last year in THE ARRIVAL, plays
Bobby Bishop, a special assistant to the president. Bobby says his
theory of governance is, "He who gets the first sound bite wins."
Although he assisted the president with the preparation of the
controversial speech, he will help the president's cabinet by getting
the speech delayed and in the process will outfox ace reporter Amanda
Givens (Linda Hamilton). In the cabinet are Ben Gazzara as the Vice
President, Charles Cioffi as the Chairmen of the Joints Chiefs, and
Donald Sutherland as Conrad, who is Bishop's boss.
The two stories quickly intertwine when the professor meets Bobby
in Georgetown to tell him, "Something terrible is happening within the
government at the highest level. There's an enemy within, a traitor."
This setup for the plot happens in the first ten minutes. Want to
go out on a limb and guess what the "Shadow Conspiracy" is, and who are
the nefarious fellows behind it?
Right after his conversation with the professor, Bobby is shot at
and then chased for the entire rest of the picture. The "good" guys
want Bobby to come in, but Bobby smells a rat, or rather a mole, or
moles. The film consists of chase scene after chase scene with Bobby
and, of course, the lovely ace reporter by his side. You've seen all
of this before and better. If you come to the film expecting nothing
and have your brain switched off, the film does provide enjoyable,
A show with never a subtle moment has the requisite thunder and
lighting. The music by Bruce Broughton has variations on the mystery
music you've heard a hundred times before.
Sheen and Hamilton try hard but cannot save the show. Sutherland
is awful. In one scene, where the tension is mounting, he rests his
head on his shoulder as if out of boredom. You may be sympathetic with
his gesture. The worse performance is given by Nicolas Turturro as
Grasso, the NSA intelligence expert. Turturro's Grasso is someone you
would not trust to have the brains to park your car. In a show full of
implausibilities one of my favorites is that Grasso is able within
seconds to redirect spy satellites positioned on the other side of the
globe to begin looking down on Washington.
Most of the problems with THE SHADOW CONSPIRACY relate to the
weakness of the script by Adi Hasak and Ric Gibbs. These first time
writers have set up "numerous projects" according to the press kit, and
this is just the first of many to be released. I sincerely hope the
others are better. Director George P. Cosmatos (TOMBSTONE) adds
nothing to the picture, which runs on autopilot.
Providing all the ingredients of a thriller is not the same as
making a thriller. Nor will hiring a talented cast guarantee
compelling performances. The show reminded me of my mother's fudge
when I was a kid. She would put in what she thought were the right
ingredients, but it always ended up being a thick, brown soupy
concoction. She never did find the right recipe. Neither did these
THE SHADOW CONSPIRACY runs 1:43. It is rated R for violence and
some profanity. The show is a soft R and would be fine for any
teenager. There is not much to the movie so I can not recommend it.
Better to stay home and watch mediocre television than pay seven bucks
to see an unconvincing movie. I give it **.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes