Movie Review: "Desperate Measures"

February 11, 1998|By Jason Myers

Movie Review: "Desperate Measures"

It always has been a practical assumption of mine that convicted murderers would make the best donors in medical situations of utmost gravity.

Thankfully, I have been to see "Desperate Measures" and received enlightment. I suppose the movie is preposterous because Peter McCabe (Michael Keaton) seems just like the mild-mannered killer I would want should I ever need a bone-marrow transplant - so when he breaks free and goes on a homicidal rampage, I was unnerved by how simply unpredictable this plot turn was. (Does sarcasm read well on paper?)

You have to feel sorry for Frank Connor (Andy Garcia) and his son - Timmy, is it? - who will die from leukemia unless he receives bone-marrow from McCabe.


Director Barbet Schroeder handles everything just so delicately. "Desperate Measures" displays all the subtlety of a nuclear blast.

After sitting through the film, I think I would prefer Armageddon. I suppose it would be asking too much to annihilate such a hideous piece of filmmaking dreck from my mind.

In a cruel world where vast spools of film are wasted on formulaic premises like "Desperate Measures," the only thing a boy can do is to stand up and walk out of the theater. But as a critic and a patron who had just invested good money, I felt I owed "Desperate Measures" the opportunity to improve upon its absurdist plot. (Where else but a movie would a killer happen to be the only person with bodily fluid condusive to a life-saving operation for the son of a police detective?)

To my sad surprise, "Desperate Measures" could not cease to get worse. Did I mention that Frank Connor was a widower as well? How more manipulative can one film be? I am so debased after having seen this film that I am left only asking questions rather than making definitive statements. So here's one: "Desperate Measures" boasts the most inane, inept script, penned by David Klass (I propose that the death penalty be reserved only for cases of extremely incompetent, idiotic screenwriters.)

When Connor first meets McCabe, strapped to a chair and snarling, the viewer longs for the brilliant badinage between Clarice and Hannibal in "Silence of the Lambs," a film so superior to "Desperate Measures" that it pains me even to relate the two. Where Anthony Hopkins used his masterly, actorly intuition to show us the demented intellect of a serial killer, here we merely are told the killer is intellectual.

I suppose this intellect is evidenced in the way he breathes fire to escape from surgery. The governor of California, no less, has met McCabe's conditions in order that the killer donate his marrow. Or maybe the way he keeps blowing stuff up. After awhile, I began to wonder if the story had been written prior to all the blood-letting and pyrotechnics, or if it was merely slapped together in the editing room.

I honestly pitied Keaton, whose perpetual scowl must be emblematic of his mourning for departing the "Batman" series, and Garcia, who has played one too many an aggrieved husband/father/martyr.

Usually I would say their performances carried an otherwise trite, conventional film, but Brando and Burton could not have salvaged this mess.

Schroeder has directed films with ambiguity, "Reversal of Fortune," and intelligence, "Kiss of Death," but here he has sacrificed all control to the sleek, lurid lure of thriller imbecility.

"Desperate Measures" has more plot holes than I have time to enumerate, but what I found most offensive was the film's moralistic duplicity.

For the entire film there is a simplistic good-evil stasis separating Connor and McCabe, until the overlong, overwrought finale in which the two men achieve some sort of Jerry Springer profound reconciliation.

Watching the two hold hands in an ambulance, I could not decide whether to clean up my regurgitations, or run quickly from the theater.

My only hope is that the awful order of "Desperate Measures" will overpower my stale spew.

Jason is a senior at North Hagerstown High School.

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