September 27, 1996 in Seven

Medical Mayhem ‘Extreme Measure’ Lacks Desired Mystery And Suspense

Michael H. Price Fort Worth Star-Telegram
 

“Extreme Measures,” starring Gene Hackman and Hugh Grant as warring physicians, will make you think twice before doing anything that might land you in the emergency room.

When attending physician Guy Luthan (Grant) assigns priority to a wounded policeman over a more gravely injured assailant, you can bet someone’s close at hand to keep score. It’s tipped off too early that there are higher-ups interested in Luthan’s tendency to “play God,” but the value of a predictable movie is that it makes you feel really smart.

The mystery centers on a renowned healer, Lawrence Myrick (Gene Hackman), one of those higher-ups. He’s an awesome figure to an entry-level talent such as Luthan. But once their paths have crossed, they will keep crossing - in what turns out to be the strangest case of corporate headhunting and high-pressure job-interviewing in recent memory.

The problem with “Extreme Measures” - aside from a title that suggests a Jean-Claude Van Damme picture - is that it tries to be an engrossing thriller and a high-moral-ground think-piece. It hits neither mark with much consistency. Its “terrifying moral dilemma” is no dilemma at all, but rather a clear-cut case of outrage toward a secret conspiracy to nab homeless New Yorkers for illicit medical experimentation.

Director Michael Apted starts off at a harrowing pace, with two desperate men in such a hurry to get away from something that they have forgotten their clothing. One of the fugitives (Shaun Austin-Olson) lands in Luthan’s ER, where he drops vague clues before dying from seizures. Luthan’s attempts to order an autopsy meet only resistance - escalating to a frame-up of Luthan for cocaine possession.

The predicament plays convincingly enough, and Grant is fine as an easygoing fellow who finds himself trapped in a conspiracy that wants him to join up or die. Suspense lags, however, in what should feel like a desperate chase through subway tunnels. In fact, the movie stops cold when Luthan lands in a hospital he cannot recognize - a scene that should be the film’s chilling centerpiece. Mostly, Grant carries the film, with occasional intrusions from Hackman (a walk-through) and Sarah Jessica Parker (underemployed as a nosy nurse).

Tony Gilroy’s screenplay treats the vagrant population of New York with a rare respect but paints its exploiters as the same old mad-doctor stereotypes. Anyone shows up in a wheelchair, and somebody’s in trouble. The film rallies late, with a nicely staged bit of mayhem in the clandestine clinic, before lapsing into a sappy ending. In all, a disappointing film that does not carry through on its flashes of promise.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Extreme Measures” Locations: East Sprague, Lyons and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Michael Apted, starring Gene Hackman, Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker Running time: 1:57 Rating: R

This sidebar appeared with the story: “Extreme Measures” Locations: East Sprague, Lyons and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Michael Apted, starring Gene Hackman, Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker Running time: 1:57 Rating: R

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