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   CONSPIRACY THEORY (1997) 

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CAST
Mel Gibson
Julia Roberts
Patrick Stewart
Cylk Cozart
Steve Kahan
Terry Alexander
Brian J. Williams
G.A. Aguilar

DIRECTED BY
Richard Donner

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 135 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Thriller/Romance


Who can resist a movie starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts? Not I, which is why I plunked my cash down at the theater. Was I disappointed? Well, yes. This isn't the worst movie ever made, but it as good as the talent involved. Donner, most well known for his collaboration with Gibson in the LETHAL WEAPON series, tries to cross over into the thriller genre with this over-the-top flick, but he's clearly out of his element here. What you're led to believe from the trailer of this film is that Jerry is a crazy New York cab driver who hits the nail on the head with one of his "conspiracy theories" and is persecuted because of it. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Instead of following in this vein – is Jerry crazy or not – the film becomes a convoluted mess of useless intrigue that have nothing to do with the initial concept.

What keeps it afloat is the inherent charisma of its leads. Their relationship, though not a romantic one, is the only interesting aspect of the story. It's something of a disappointment to see two of Hollywood's most beautiful people not end up in a lip lock, but it would have been a mistake to force the issue. Though the leading role, Jerry is more of a character piece. His insane behavior, not to mention his occupation, make a romantic relationship with Robert's high-powered attorney clearly out of the question. Perhaps if the role had been played by someone less attractive than Gibson, the film would have seemed more believable. At least Travolta tries to look and act differently in every role, however, Gibson has never been able to pull off characters that are less than leading man material. No matter how wacky his character behaves, he never stops being Mel Gibson.

As the film ticks along it becomes apparent that neither Jerry's little newsletter nor his opinions about the government have anything to do with why he and Alice are on the run. They're being hunted for completely different reasons; none of which were settled or illuminated to my satisfaction after two and a half hours of chasing, shooting and explosions. It's a plot twist that doesn't quite come together, making an already confusing story even more so. Plus, but this point you really don't care.


"A good conspiracy is unprovable. I mean, if you can prove it, it means they screwed up somewhere along the line."

In the end, what really matters is that Alice, even after all of the mind games, death and torture, chooses to believe in Jerry. Not only does she believe in him, she falls in love with him, crazy as he is, and ultimately saves his life. While not exactly believable, it's the most realistic thing that happens in this movie. Their relationship is based on trust, not physical attraction. A much harder emotion to portray onscreen and one they convey with honesty and subtlety. The physical attraction thing is a given. Even if Mel was a complete lunatic, most woman would want to be with him anyway, at least for a week or two. It's the only thing that really works here.

It's great to see Julia in a strong woman's role for once. She made me believe she was smart, capable and as in control of her life as any of us are on any given day – a real departure for her in my opinion. This was not your regular pretty woman, smile for the camera kind of role. She gave it real depth and emotion. Something we got a peek of in MARY REILLY and really expanded on here. She shows sparks of the talent and personality that garnered her the Oscar for ERIN BROCKOVICH. Mel tries to stretch his repertoire a bit, but doesn't quite make the full jump the character demands. Maybe we'll see something different from him once he's too old to play the romantic lead. His charisma certainly helps this film, but not enough. It's nice to see Patrick Stewart given a meaty role outside of the STAR TREK series. Unfortunately his part in this film doesn't capitalize on his tremendous talent.

The leads may be great actors, but even they can't save this ridiculously convoluted story. Not only does it make very little sense, it goes on much longer than necessary. Establishing believable characters takes time, but no thriller should be longer than 2 hours. Pace is everything and this film takes too long to get going on its road to nowhere. There are too many unnecessary scenes that don't build on the characters or the suspense. To make a movie exciting it has to move at a pace above that of a turtle. This is an urban thriller, pick it up a little. If there hadn't been things exploding, I wouldn't even have been aware they were in danger. Let the editors do their job. A quicker pace might have made the plot holes less obvious and the action more interesting. I can't say I blame Donner, et al, for trying to strike out in new directions, I just wish the endeavor had a point. For Gibson and Roberts fans only.



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