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Mercury Rising

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4


*Also starring: Miko Hughes, Chi McBride, Kim Dickens



Review by Walter Frith
3 stars out of 4

The easiest noun to use in describing 'Mercury Rising' would be "routine". It's a simple description but it fits. I have to say up front that the movie is mildly entertaining on a trashy sort of level in the sense that it's best not to think about it too much after you leave the theatre. You can't fault movie critics too much for repeating themselves because it's only due to the fact that films keep repeating themselves and critics comment on what they see. It's sort of like a quarterback who sticks with the plays that work. If it's a winning formula, stick with it and as long as people keep dishing out enough money to see action stars in their repetitive vehicles, Hollywood will keep making them.

The problem with Bruce Willis is that he fails to connect in finding a different personality for each character he plays. Clint Eastwood made Dirty Harry different from Josey Wales and his gunslinger in 'Unforgiven' was quite different from the drill sergeant he played in 'Heartbreak Ridge'. All the recent characters that Bruce Willis has played have looked and felt the same. 1997's 'The Fifth Element' was like watching John McClane (Willis' character in the 'Die Hard' trilogy) wake up after being in a chamber of cryogenic technology for three hundred years, thawed out to strut his stuff with futuristic bad guys and it failed with most critics except those radical science fiction fans who refuse to knock even the worst of that genre. I really haven't seen Willis in a top notch role since his 1994 attempt at serious stuff such as 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Nobody's Fool'. I wish he'd go back to the stuff he has the potential with and earn a respectable name for himself but he's becoming a stereotyped performer like Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes.

The plot line in 'Mercury Rising' concerns a nine year old autistic boy who has cracked a secret government code which will be used to protect the covert operations of secret U.S. agents all over the world. He got the code from a puzzle book and it just so happens that two government computer programmers put the code in the book on purpose, testing its reliability, knowing (or at least counting on the fact) that no one will be able to crack it but not understanding that the human brain will always remain a mystery. Their boss, an evil government stooge (Alec Baldwin), is outraged that his employees would pull such a stunt and Baldwin takes steps to eliminate all traces of the boy's involvement with the code and the government office that created it. This includes killing the boy's parents and Willis plays a demoted FBI agent who investigates the murder of the boy's parents and eventually ends up the boy's protector when things get more and more dangerous.

Director Harold Becker ('The Onion Field', 'Taps', 'Sea of Love', 'Malice') has used his typical style of stretching a story out to be much more than it really is, spreading the plot too thin in an attempt to cover up plot holes and while it hasn't worked for him in the past, it doesn't work here. Based on the novel 'Simple Simon' by Ryne Douglas Pearson and written by Lawrence Konner, Ryne Douglas Pearson and Mark Rosenthal, 'Mercury Rising' isn't a film I can recommend for its originality, but it has some decent action sequences as the film is evenly paced and it is touching in a certain way as Willis plays the responsible role of the boy's protector and while that may be no big deal to cynics, the film has a style with an average intention to please audiences and because of that it does have some merit.

Copyright 1998 Walter Frith

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