What, after all, can be said about a film this awful?


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Extreme Measures" is a movie more to be endured than enjoyed. There's a real vision problem here: no one had one. It's one part thriller (hero outrunning a villain and a train in a darkened tunnel), one part medical mystery (who is turning all these homeless people into lab rats?), and one part simple misfire (lecture on medical ethics in the age of technology). That's a mix destined to die an unnatural death, and it does.

And there's the problem of getting used to the new Hugh Grant. Just as we are getting comfortable with him as a brilliant young doctor tracking a medical conspiracy, the scriptwriter undercuts him, fatally. In fact, the script evenhandedly disables all the actors. Mr. Grant gives a good effort; he just picked the wrong film.

Think about this: after his patient dies and disappears, Dr. Guy Luthan (Hugh Grant) follows a ludicrous set of clues through the hospital hierarchy. This leads to an interminable descent through the bowels of Grand Central Station to an underground chamber that is a holding tank of sorts for homeless men being readied for scientific experimentation at the hands of Dr. Lawrence Myrick (Gene Hackman.)

Are you still listening? Good, there's more. As the movie begins to ooze the grizzle and gore of the horror genre, we are insulted by Hackman's evil defense of his actions--all in the name of finding a cure for the desperately afflicted. At this point, the already mediocre thriller dissolves absolutely. We are roused periodically from our torpor to cover our eyes in distaste at the sight of death by electrocution, death by train squooshing, and death by bloody spinal surgery. The whole thing is an exercise in depravity.

Both Gene Hackman and Hugh Grant have the good taste to look suitably pained throughout. It is not an attractive sight to see Hackman, a wonderfully reliable bad guy, caught in a sci-fi horror show as the mad doctor. Grant, passingly credible in his whites, is comically wrong as a helmeted hero trying to zip through dark and dangerous streets on a motorcycle. He still has the air of the usher late for the church.

The whole sordid mess moves intolerably slowly, as if the filmmakers are trying desperately to stretch the material to fit their time frame, much as I am at this moment stretching this review to the allotted 500 words. What, after all, can be said about a film this awful? Certainly this: do not try to educate the public by raising universal moral dilemmas in a horror film; do not trifle with genuine medical tragedies by demeaning them in a horror film.

1996 has been a banner year for bad movies. We thought we had the title winner when Hollywood released "Multiplicity" with a straight face and high expectations, but "Extreme Measures" has the honor of jumping immediately to the top of this year's list of biggest bombs.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 494
Studio : Sony Pictures
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h58m

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