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Overall Rating

Awesome: 9.09%
Worth A Look: 9.09%
Pretty Bad: 13.64%
Total Crap: 9.09%

1 review, 16 user ratings

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Chain Reaction
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by Jack Sommersby

"Davis and Reeves and Freeman Deliver"
3 stars

Didn't exactly do the most impressive of box-office figures, but it's better made and acted than several of its type with higher ticket sales.

In the grand schema of cinema, the Andrew Davis-directed Chain Reaction is a relatively minor affair, but it's been fashioned with such alacrity, acted with such persuasion, paced with such adroitness, that it more than warrants a look-see. Davis is responsible for serving up career-bests for Chuck Norris (Code of Silence) and Steven Seagal (Under Siege), and though his Oscar-nominated The Fugitive was a tad overpraised, there was little denying it was made by a first-rate craftsman. Here, working with a screenplay co-written by Under Siege's J.F. Lawton, Davis serves up an ecological action picture, and, thankfully, it's not overly didactic like Seagal's clunky On Deadly Ground; it may not make a great deal of sense, with a couple of fuzzy plot points crying out for clarification, but it never lets up once during its running time -- four editors are credited, and they've pared away any semblances of flab; this is a movie that goes vroom! Coming off the sensational box-office smash Speed, Keanu Reeves stars as Eddie Kasalivich, a University of Chicago machinist working with a team of scientists on the experimental production of hydrogen fuel, and overseeing the project is one Paul Shannon (Morgan Freeman), a duplicitous fundraiser with shady governmental ties. After numerous failed attempts, the experiment finally succeeds thanks to Eddie coming up with the right frequencies, but before the lead scientist can altruistically share the technical specs of this breakthrough to all of the world's leading scientists, the scientist is murdered and the warehouse holding all of the equipment and data is blown sky-high, resulting in the nuclear-bomb-like leveling of eight square city blocks. Sabotage is suspected, and both Eddie and physicist Lily Sinclair (Rachel Weisz), with a quarter of a million dollars discovered at his loft and fax transmissions for a rendezvous in Shanghai at her apartment, are being set up as conspirators. Leading the investigation is FBI agent Ford (Fred Ward), who bears an occupational resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones's relentless federal marshal in The Fugitive -- Chain Reaction essentially operates off the same story template, and if its carbon-copy self never really breaks free and takes on an identity of its own, it's engineered well enough where you're not likely to care. Also figuring in the mix is Paul's clandestine superior, Lyman Collier (Manhunter's Brian Cox), the very definition of governmental sleaze (you wouldn't be surprised to see him leave a slime trail wherever he walks), along with an assortment of formidable henchmen constantly in pursuit of our hero and heroine.

Davis floundered after the hugely successful The Fugitive with the second-rate Frank Capra-ian Steal Big Steal Little, a dream project of his that he co-wrote and produced as well as directed, so it's good to see him back in his native Chicago working his muscular action-movie magic (his other pictures, Above the Law and The Package, were also shot in the Windy City). Though highly derivative of The Fugitive, Chain Reaction shares that movie's chief asset: a highly intelligent protagonist using more in the way of brains than brawn to outwit his adversaries. Whether it's being pursued on and then within the confines of a raised drawbridge, his releasing gas from a large canister to get out of a set-to-explode underground facility, changing computer programs to release pertinent information, Eddie is a thinking-person's hero; and Reeves, who just five years prior convinced as the quintessential San Bernardino airhead Ted, convinces again as the high-acumen Eddie. And perfectly complimenting Reeves is Freeman, who serves up the kind of multi-faceted portrait uncommon for this genre. Shannon is a complex man: decent-hearted but also willing to determine what lives need sacrificing for what he perceives as the better good; wealthy and used to being pampered, and smoking the finest Davidoff cigars, you can never be quite sure whether he can be trusted. The master actor he is, Freeman is understatedly mesmerizing. Weisz is plucky and spunky enough so Lilly isn't just another Movieland love interest. And while Ward is no slouch himself, he's been saddled with the most tired of the movie's rather lackluster dialogue, and his scenes are mostly dead weight -- the role is such a cliche, and the attempt to serve up another enigmatic Samuel Gerard so obvious, you're inclined to contemplate a pee break whenever Ward and Kevin Dunn, as Ford's second-in-command, are on screen. But Davis has gotten first-rate contributions from his regular cinematographer Frank Tidy (the lighting, especially in the several nighttime exteriors, is luxurious) and composer Jerry Goldsmith (it's a pump-up-the-audience score in the best traditional sense); on his part, Davis's camerawork is more inventive than in The Fugitive, and he struts his considerable stuff in the action choreography (especially the cutting from a medium shot to an extreme long shot while keeping the spatial logistics both clear and consistent). There are even some not-bad CGI effects that punctuate rather than puncture the proceedings. Granted, you're not likely to take a whole lot of Chain Reaction with you after leaving the theatre, but if you've got a heartbeat you surely won't be bored.

A good reason to check out Andrew Davis's other movies if you haven't.

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originally posted: 12/17/13 13:01:54
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell decent no more no less 3 stars
6/10/14 RIYA GREAT BLOG 5 stars
11/24/10 chris. reeves' bad acting inflicts all those around him 1 stars
8/05/10 Monday Morning As an actor, Keanu Reeves is a waste of perfectly good skin. 2 stars
12/10/05 R.W.Welch Unconvincing conspiracy flick has one plus: it moves. 3 stars
6/08/04 Dr. Lecter Can Andrew David direct a movie without one foot chase after another? 3 stars
3/14/04 Charles Critics despise it, but, really, it could have been worse. 3 stars
12/09/03 HorrorScribbler So-so. Maintains interest but nothing special. Weisz attractive as ever. 3 stars
8/31/03 John Bale Already dated serious waste of acting talent, Reeves saves a Hi-Tech world. 2 stars
4/16/03 JL Kinda lame, but Fred Ward is sexy in this. 4 stars
3/12/03 Blabity blah Far fetched story. Total waste of talent. 1 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby Derivative of "The Fugitive", but it still manages to grip. Good performances by all. 3 stars
9/18/02 snowconehead They took everything(music, plot, actors) from The Fugitive, and changed the title 3 stars
6/14/02 erick eh i am just a reeves fan what can i say? oh yeah this movie is well decent 5 stars
6/02/02 Ren Hoek A poorly written action thriller that wastes both Keanu and the great Morgan Freeman 2 stars
5/30/02 Julia Cox Decent thriller, but Morgan Freeman was never more wasted than as this cardboard character. 4 stars
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  02-Aug-1996 (PG-13)

  06-Sep-1996 (12)

  16-Jan-1997 (M)

Directed by
  Andrew Davis

Written by
  J.F. Lawton
  Michael Bortman

  Keanu Reeves
  Morgan Freeman
  Racehl Weisz
  Fred Ward
  Kevin Dunn
  Brian Cox

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