by Ryan Arthur
Hey, it's Mel Gibson acting wacky!I didn't go into this film expecting a lot. I'm generally not a fan of the Lethal Weapon series and didn't have much of an opinion on the Mad Max movies. Nor does Julia Roberts impress me in anything other than a romantic comedy. So I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up liking this movie.
"I'm just a guy trying to put out a fire."
For once, Mel's supposed manic sense of humor actually fits a film. As Jerry, he's totally paranoid and full of nervous energy. He talks to his fares about the government coverups that he knows exist but just can't prove ("A good conspiracy is one that can't be proven; if there's evidence, then the government hasn't done a very good job," he says). He padlocks his refrigerator, keeping his drinks in individual thermoses, also padlocked. The one thing that keeps Jerry this side of sane is spying on his infatuation, Alice (Roberts), a lawyer for the Justice Department. Jerry's real big on watching her sing along to "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" while she's on the treadmill. There's nothing more charming than a paranoid stalker, apparently.
Out of nowhere, Jerry's picked up by government spooks and taken to a mental hospital, where he's tortured by Jean-Luc Picard...oops, Patrick Stewart. Needless to say, it wouldn't really be a Mel Gibson movie without a torture scene. He's trapped to a wheelchair, drugged, and has his eyes scotch-taped open. Jerry escapes after flying into a frenzy, taking a hunk of Patrick Stewart's nose with him, and starts rolling to freedom. The escape, while still strapped to the wheelchair, is one of the best scenes.
Jerry spens the rest of the movie on the run from government agencies with Alice in tow. It's here that the movie reaches it's paranoia pitch. Everything, according to Jerry, is a part of some far-reaching conspiracy plot: black stealth helicopters, mind control techniquews, even a NASA plot to kill the president by causing an earthquake from space. Jerry believes in them all, and at one point or another, they all come to the forefront. Alice is understandably skeptical. But she grudgingly comes to trust Jerry.
Unfortunately, the flick suffers from being long by about a half hour, and the ending is a bit of a letdown, although the loose ends are tied up neatly. But the plot, while having some twists, is paper thin, playing on the fact that a fair amount of the audience will turn to the person next to them and say, "you know, he's right about all that stuff." It relies solely and completely on the hope that a viewer will believe even just a little part of it.
As far as the performances go, Mel does a decent job here, rattling off theories like a paranoiac Rain Man, and he's believable as the sort of everyman that he's playing, unlike when he's some nutjob cop or apocalyptic road warrior. Roberts is passable, looking occasionally like a deer in the headlights. Stewart is mildly smarmy, but he just doesn't exude the evil that he should as some rogue government agent. He doesn't make it over the top. If anything, he's too quiet.
On the whole though, it's a decent watch.Just because he's paranoid, doesn't mean people aren't out to get him.
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originally posted: 08/21/98 00:22:36