An allergic 'Reaction' to stinkbomb

August 02, 1996|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,SUN FILM CRITIC

I'm beginning to think the one clear signal of a rotten movie is Morgan Freeman. This distinguished gentleman has of late earned a handsome living by contributing his immense talent and dignity to the most specious of projects and, by his very gravitas, giving them a claim to serious attention they otherwise fail to generate on their own.

That's certainly true of the awesomely dismal "Chain Reaction," a strictly by-the-numbers job that, sans Freeman, would be beneath contempt. So congratulations, Morgan Freeman: Your contribution to "Chain Reaction" is to make it worthy of contempt.

It's the old one about the dreamers who invent a cheap alternative to fossil fuels and are therefore hunted down by the government-petroleum complex, which cannot afford to lose the power franchise that oil ownership provides them. But the movie is dizzyingly routine when it's not merely dizzying.

Keanu Reeves plays the heroic undergrad who survives the massacre and detonation that ends the research project and for his trouble is framed for the crime and, with physicist Rachel Weisz, goes on the lam.

Among the annoying motifs: Every action sequence is like every other action sequence, chiefly documenting the incredibly lucky ways the fleeing Reeves always finds the exact tool or vehicle that he needs to escape from yet another 300 cops or CIA henchmen.

It's that ancient trope about the amateur endlessly outperforming the professionals that has you dozing in a very few minutes.

Cheesy, boring and completely annoying, the movie has but one high point, admittedly a recondite one, available only to those who know their Chicago museums.

That's where the filmmakers begin a chase in the Museum of Natural History, send Reeves flying down a corridor, left into the Museum of Science and Industry and racing outside to the shores of Lake Michigan, whereupon we learn that the sequence is supposedly set in Washington, D.C.!

The plot makes as much sense but is much less funny.

'Chain Reaction'

Starring Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman

Directed by Andrew Davis

Released by Twentieth Century Fox

Rated R (violence)

Sun score: *

Pub Date: 8/02/96

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