Tuesday 31 May 2022

Movie Review: Medicine Man (1992)

An unconvincing and clunky romance set in the Amazon jungle, Medicine Man plays the most predictable drum beats.

Biochemist Dr. Rae Crane (Lorraine Bracco) journeys deep into the Amazon jungle to check on the progress of eccentric researcher Dr. Robert Campbell (Sean Connery). After the death of his wife, Campbell had pushed his rudimentary research lab into near-inaccessible territory and all but broke off contact with the outside world.

Rae and Robert immediately clash. He does not welcome her intrusion, nor her threats that his funding may be cut off. But he gradually shares his research progress, including the stunning news he may have found a cancer cure using a rare native flower that only grows high up in the Amazon canopy. Rae and Robert start to help each other, including searching for a native healer who may hold the secret to replicating the flower's medicinal properties.

Several structural weaknesses undermine the appeal of Medicine Man. Dangling a possible cure for cancer as a plot point but then consigning it as background to a bland love story is an epic misplacement of priorities. The quarter century age difference between Connery and Bracco makes for a quite awkward attempted romance, and the by-the-Hollywood-numbers evolution of their relationship from resentment to attraction is simply boring. Other than generic members of a native tribe, the film is devoid of any interesting secondary characters, leaving Connery and Bracco to carry the full load.

The unfortunate casting of Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Crane dooms any attempts at serious drama or medicine. Not helped by the script (by Tom Schulman and Sally Robinson) nor by director John McTiernan, Bracco never gets a handle on her character, caught between lost-in-the-jungle damsel in distress helplessness, a broad-as-can-be Bronx accent, and a supposedly stellar academic resume. She is never anything other than a vexatious plot contrivance.

The few positives include a crusty Connery performance in his full-of-confidence pony-tailed element, and stunning Amazonian jungle cinematography courtesy of Donald McAlpine. The scenic beauty is often used as a crutch, McTiernan finding reasons for Crane and Campbell to swing high up between the trees as cover for not much going on at ground level. A late-in-the-day confrontation with a road-building crew underlines the lack of coherent ideas.

Medicine Man tantalizes with the potential for a healing breakthrough, but cannot save itself.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.