Chain Reaction (1996) / Thriller-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence
Running Time: 107 min.
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Morgan Freeman, Rachel Weisz, Fred Ward, Kevin Dunn, Brian Cox, Joanna Cassidy, Tzi Ma
Cameo: Michael Shannon
Director: Andrew David
Screenplay: J.F. Lawton, Michael Bortman
Review published January 7, 1997
Keanu Reeves (A Walk in the Clouds, Speed) stars as Eddie Kasalivich, a machinist working on an experiment to rid the world of petroleum products and introduce hydrogen-based power into the world through an ever abundant and clean "fossil fuel" known as water. Some unknown baddies sabotage the successful experiment and Eddie and the other surviving scientists are framed for the "accident" which destroys eight city blocks in Chicago. The rest of the film is mostly chase as Eddie and his mandatory love interest, physicist Dr. Lily Sinclair (Weisz, The Mummy) run from the cops, FBI, and the aforementioned baddies in order to get to the bottom of what's going on.
Not surprisingly, Chain Reaction is directed by Andrew Davis, who made another chase film the year before to high success in The Fugitive. In this film, Davis shows that the success of The Fugitive rested mostly in the compelling story and the credible acting of Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones and not in his overhyped skills, as this film is a mundanely directed bore. It is strictly a by-the-numbers chase thriller with absolutely nothing in the way of originality or common sense.
In the two hours of tedium, we can thrill to the exciting prospects of watching a couple of geniuses doing the most idiotic things possible in order to get away from law enforcement. The action never lets up as hovercrafts and empty police vehicles appear at just the right time to convenience the ultimate climax when the scientists confront their nemesis. If you're lucky you'll be sitting next to someone kind enough to wake you when the film ends.
And who are the people who've decided Keanu Reeves is a great actor that deserves more starring vehicles? As evidenced here, Reeves has little depth in acting ability; you could have pulled a random person off the street who had more charisma and screen presence. Thank goodness there's Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Unforgiven), one of the great actors working today, to give the whole mad mess an ounce of credibility. Too bad he wasted his time and talent on an instantly forgettable but forever regrettable dud like this.
©1997 Vince Leo