out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
Review by MrBrown
2½ stars out of 4
Mel Gibson plays a paranoid, downright crazy New York cab driver
obsessed with the idea of conspiracies. Suddenly, he finds himself the
target of shady government types, apparently because one of his theories is
true. On the run for his life, only a Justice Department investigator
(Julia Roberts) can help him. Sounds like a strange cross between Lethal
Weapon, Taxi Driver, and The Pelican Brief, and, for about half of its
running time, Richard Donner's Conspiracy Theory does play as such.
However, one wishes that Donner and company had remained on that track, for
the film quickly degenerates into a murky mess that grows more hopelessly
convoluted with each passing minute.
What makes Conspiracy Theory initially interesting--and
promising--is Gibson's wacked-out cabbie, Jerry Fletcher. There are
paranoid people and then there are people like Jerry, who even keeps his
refrigerator and its contents under lock and key (one of the more inspired
sight gags are the combination-locked jugs of coffee and pudding). Gibson,
a proven pro at playing off-kilter characters, is so much fun to watch that
we are interested when the contrived plot surfaces. Jerry voices his wild
theories in a self-published newsletter (which lends the film its title), so
when some government agents led by the mysterious Dr. Jonas (an underused
Patrick Stewart) start chasing him, Jerry, his "friend" Alice Sutton
(Roberts, well-cast), and the audience are led to believe that one of his
wild ideas is indeed true.
Alas, if only it were that simple. Certainly, the scenario
initially set up by writer Brian Helgeland is contrived, but at the very
least it was easy to follow, and Donner directs the proceedings with an
energetic urgency. But, as it turns out, it's nothing more than a red
herring. Midway through a couple of new, complex plot elements are brought
to the forefront: the long-ago murder of Alice's judge father and, most
regrettably, a left-field development involving (yes) mind control. This
twist would not have been as bothersome if it made some sense, but it never
does, nor is everything clearly, satisfactorily explained. The way in which
Conspiracy Theory hooks viewers with its questions (and fascinating
protagonist) and then loses them with its answers more than recalls the
recent thriller Smilla's Sense of Snow, even if the outlandishness of the
plot "secrets" is not as awful as that of the half-baked Smilla.
Conspiracy Theory marks Gibson and Donner's fifth collaboration
(following the three Lethal Weapons and Maverick)--and their least
satisfying one. As it is, the film is a mildly diverting piece of popcorn
entertainment, but it would have gone down a lot more smoothly had it not
been too "clever" for its own good.
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