Extreme Measures (15)

Directed by Michael Apted
Starring Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman, Sarah Jessica Parker

This is the first product of Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley's Simian Films company. It is a medical thriller that pitches ER doctor Grant into intrigue and danger after a mysterious patient dies of unexplained causes. Grant pursues the case and thereby gets mixed up in shady and unethical research by Gene Hackman. Naturally, there are a couple of heavies to chase him around, and Grant suffers nobly. The action switches from the underworld occupied by the homeless to the opulent medical facilities Hackman offers. No one is quite what they seem, apart from the extreme goodie and baddie!(Grant and Hackman.)
This is a taut well paced thriller. The script is a good one, keeping the audience guessing for the most part. However, the last 15 minutes or so are weak compared to the well constructed earlier sections. I particularly liked the part near the end where Grant finds himseld paralysed and forced to consider the true implications, and what he would be prepared to do to change his situation.
This is a bit different from Hugh Grant's previous film work. He doesn't really get to be be cute or charming, and is not really an 'everyman' type that we can all imagine ourselves as. However he carries the film pretty well. Hackman can do roles like this with his eyes closed, and he does reall. He doesn't have a very large part, but his class shines through. Poor Sarah Jessica Parker gets to look horribly frumpy all the time, and has a poorly developed role, when it looked initially as though she might have more to do.
Michael Apted has done a fine job to keen this thriller moving briskly along, and injects a fair degree of tension and excitement.
Only a moderate success in America, I hope this film does better here, as it is a far better film than Grant's last big American veture, the truly appalling Nine Months. It also raises an unoriginal but emotive question of what a cure for serious illness is worth. Hackman uses human guinea pigs, but if he had found a cure for spinal paralysis, would it all have been worth it? He asks Grant, if you could find a cure for cancer by killing a patient, wouldn't you do it?
Good performances,a well handled thriller. 7/10

February 1997

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