'Brainscan' is a no-brainer: Don't bother

April 22, 1994|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

Memo to the producers of "Brainscan": Guys, don't let anyone run a brainscan on you.

Probable result: A line so flat it makes West Texas look like West Virginia.

Dumb decision No. 1: spotlighting the ever more wan Edward Furlong, once a co-star of the gigantic "Terminator 2." Furlong, with that delicate, nearly angelic face, was able to survive the rigors of "T2" without humiliation only because he was surrounded by zillion-dollar special effects that deflected attention from his wispy voice, spidery body and less than authoritative presence. He has subsequently had an ever dimmer career in unsuccessful horror movies. In this one, he's so transparent and listless he seems more like a ghost or an ectoplasm than a real live boy.

He plays Michael, a conveniently solitary teen-ager (father off on "business trips," mother dead in an accident that is dramatized but has no meaning in plot) who gets enmeshed in a CD-ROM virtual reality game that seems to compel him toward murder, at the bidding of an avatar of his darker self. This is a chap called "Trickster," who pops out of the PC screen and comes on like the Wizard of Oz on PCP.

Dumb decision No. 2: letting the movie be taken over by T. Ryder Smith as Trickster. Hmmm, what's the sense of deja vu happening all over again? Ah, yes, it reminds me of the scene in "Catch-22" when Colonel Cathcart's aide, Colonel Korn, takes over a briefing when General Dreedle kicks out the briefer. Colonel Korn gets more theatrical as he gains confidence, sees a whole new world opening up for himself, gets louder and more flirtatious with General Dreedle. Then, General Dreedle whispers something into Colonel Cathcart's ear and hurries out. Colonel Korn runs up to Colonel Cathcart and says, "What did he say about me?"

"You make him sick."

Smith is so full of himself you sense an actor who feels he's on the verge of a career breakthrough. Preening, strutting, addressing the solar systems beyond Betelgeuse, flaring his nostrils, flaunting his Jagger-as-corpse makeup job and his Mohawk do, Smith goes for it full bore, full tilt, all nine yards.

He made me sick.

Furlong's Michael desperately tries to get out of the game, but Trickster has psychological leverage over him and urges him to play on. And every time he plays, he kills somebody, and when he recovers, he realizes the murders were somehow real. Meanwhile, in the rest of the movie, Frank Langella, still looking dyspeptic over the prospect of his ruined career (he was big after 1970's "Diary of a Mad Housewife" but got small soon enough), prowls the outskirts of the film as a police lieutenant intent on solving the murders.

What's the lamest con in movies? What's the most unbelievable cheap way of getting a character out of a jam? Think . . . "Dallas." Think . . . "Invasion U.S.A."

Yep. That one. Can you believe it? It should have been called . . . "Brainscam."

"Brainscan"

Starring Edward Furlong

Directed by John Flynn

Released by Triumph

R-rated

*

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