Extreme Measures (1996) Michael Apted

Production Budget: $38 million
Worldwide Gross: about $20 million

Hugh Grant plays Guy, a doctor in an overrun New York Hospital.  He gets a homeless patient with symptoms that would make House’s head explode who eventually dies.  The patient then disappears from the morgue and so do all the records.  Guy then tries to track the patient down which eventually leads to possible experimental surgeries being done.  Uh, a few notes before diving in I suppose.  This was produced by Elizabeth Hurley’s short lived production company.  It should also be noted Hurley and Grant had been together during that time.  I suppose a rule of thumb should be don’t hire your hubby for your movies.  Another note: this was written by Tony Gilroy who later did Michael Clayton.

The movie tries to pose a moral quandary to the viewer.  Namely, is it alright to inflict a little pain for a greater good?  But like with most movies trying to portray a moral gray area they tend not to blur the lines; instead they do quite the opposite.  Guy is a white knight and Hackman is Dr. Mengele doing experiments while almost cackling maniacally.  It’s like those vigilante movies that try to broach the subject of taking the law into your own hands but degenerate into good guy blowing away Satanic rapists who also torture puppies.  Entertaining?  Yes.  Thought provoking?  Not quite.  For more thought provoking I would recommend Gone Baby Gone.

Also to make it an interesting thriller, you can’t have it just being Hackman doing these things.  No, it has to be a grand conspiracy including a wealthy consortium, several Nobel type doctors, and the police.  Kind of strains the limits of credibility doesn’t it?  I won’t deny the parts where Guy is being hunted is pretty exciting.  But the moment I take more than a second to consider the plot I realize it’s just a tad silly.

The acting is okay but disappointing in some areas.  Hugh Grant does an alright job I think mainly because he tones down his usual Hugh Grant-iness.  The main disappointment comes that Gene Hackman shares billing with Hugh but has about ten minutes tops in the movie.  No way movie.  You do not promise Gene Hackman as a villain and do not deliver big heaping helpings of lovably villainous Hackman.  David Morse (who I also like) is in this movie and also does not have a hell of a lot to do.  Oh, and JK Simmons: two minutes.

Now I’ve bitched a lot about this movie, but I didn’t hate it.  I saw this in the theaters and on re-review and I wasn’t pissed off at it.  As I said, some of the thriller elements are exciting, the acting is fine, and the overall direction is well done.  The finale, despite implausibility, is entertaining.  In fact, if you were to catch this movie on tv, I would think you would be pleasantly surprised.  This movie though is plagued by faults.  The morality is black and white and the plot gets ridiculous at a certain point.  So while I can’t quite slam the movie, I can’t quite recommend it either.  It’s just middle of the road for me.

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