Wednesday 3 August 2022

Movie Review: Conspiracy Theory (1997)

An semi-serious action thriller, Conspiracy Theory piles on the escapades but skimps on the the foundations.

In New York City, taxi driver Jerry Fletcher (Mel Gibson) is a paranoid conspiracy theorist. He also has a crush on Justice Department lawyer Alice Sutton (Julia Roberts), who is still grieving the murder of her father, a judge. After Jerry publishes his latest conspiracy theory newsletter and mails it to a subscription list of five people, he is suddenly apprehended and tortured by government-type goons led by the mysterious Dr. Jonas (Patrick Stewart). Jerry escapes and connects with Alice for help. She gets caught up in his crazy world and tries to decipher what is going on in his frazzled brain, as multiple assassination attempts are made on his life.

Conspiracy Theory provides jaunty, non-stop entertainment with a glib attitude. It is also frustratingly shallow. Despite a running length of 135 minutes, writer Brian Helgeland take an awful long time to reveal a coherent plot line, and then proceed to bungle it. The main conspiracy apparently swirls around a never-seen dead person, a never-seen defendant, and a never-seen assassin, all linked to a secret defunct government program. Director Richard Donner omits actually showing any of the events that define the plot, and instead Mel Gibson's Jerry blurts out the jumbled details a few minutes before the closing credits.

Otherwise, the movie is a long series of chases and escapes interspersed with Jerry's conspiratorial ramblings. Donner assembles the action scenes with welcome coherence, and injects the right doses of madcap humour to relieve the intensity. The presence of Gibson and Julia Roberts injects star power, but cannot help the lack of narrative discipline. Gibson brings a shifty manic energy to the role, and Roberts does enough to avoid decorative status. Patrick Stewart delivers a prototypical villain with some inspiration from Laurence Olivier

Jerry's trundled flight from a torture chamber while strapped to a wheelchair is a highlight, and other good moments are found in his cramped apartment, a showcase for a runaway mind demanding locks on coffee cans inside a locked refrigerator. It's no surprise but still delightful that Jerry anticipates an intrusion and plans a comprehensive self-destruct procedure. Conspiracy Theory does not dwell on logical impetus, but does enjoy the resultant rational madness. 

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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