Conspiracy Theory (15)

Directed by Richard Donner
Starring Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart

Sounds like a sure fire winner- Mel, Julia, Mel's favourite director Richard Donner, a plot/title that is hot right now. However, the ingredients just don't cook together very well. The problems start with the script and storyline, and then there is Mel Gibson's over the top performance and the wasteful use of the brilliant Patrick Stewart.
Gibson is NY taxi driver Jerry who is a complete nut. He is obssessed with thw wildest of plots and conspiracies, and leads a very odd lifestyle. One of his other fixations is Justice department worker Alice(Roberts), who he regularly burst in on with his latest theory. This stage of the film is at first humourous, as Jerry spins his yarns, but rapidly becomes uncomfartable as it seems we are watching a mentally ill individual. Gibson doesn't help by playing Jerry as a cousin of Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon, crossed with Tim- one of his early roles. The usual Gibson twinkle in the eye seems inappropriate as he doesn't seem to be playing nuts, he IS nuts.
Soon though, Jerry is kidnapped and tortured by Dr Jonas(Stewart), but makes an improbable escape. Again, this section is unsettling as Jerry's kidnap and imprisonment is again almost played for laughs. Do we giggle as Jerry's eyes are taped open? Yes we do, but it seems wrong as this turns into a brutal and violent scene. Poor Patrick Stewart's character has less depth than a pantomime villain at this point.
The rest of the film then follows Jerry's run from Jonas and the shadowy government figures after him, and his attempts to uncover what it is he knows. The ending is reminiscent of a Scooby Doo episode.
The main problem for me was that this film didn't seem to know what it was. Gibson played it for laughs while everyone else thought they were in a thriller. From being a comedy about a paranoid nut, we are swiftly thrown into action thriller, and it just doesn't work. The film is disjointed and patchy. The story is just ridiculously improbable, and less believable than said Scooby Doo.
Julia Roberts makes an appealing heroine, but is embarrassingly bad at the emotional crying scenes at the end. Alice acts strangely, I mean would anyone really put up with someone like Jerry bursting into their office all the time? Mel just isn't cute enough in this film for Alice's tolerance of Jerry's antics. Patrick Stewart could do this role in his sleep and probably did. He gets one bit where his character is slighlty more interesting, apart from that he just looks menacing in nasty glasses. I have commented on Mel Gibson's strange performance. He IS one of the most popular stars around. I went to see it mainly because of him, but his performance reminds you of a sitcom star always hogging the funny lines and craving the audience's attention. He is supposed to be lovable, but any affection you might feel for him is based on Mel Gibson, not Jerry Fletcher. The script shows a confused and frankly loopy individual, but because it's Mel, we are supposed to be charmed by him. My argument is that this is lazy film making.
This film starts badly, gets better then loses it in a silly and overlong final act, before a sentimental and corny ending. Popular themes, but cliche ridden and badly acted. 5/10.

August 1997

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