Conspiracy Theory (1997) / Thriller-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for violence and language
Running Time: 135 min.
Cast: Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart, Cylk Cozart, Steve Kahan, Sean Patrick Thomas (cameo), Joan Lunden (cameo), Richard Donner (cameo)
Director: Richard Donner
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland
Review published June 26, 2006
Gibson (Lethal Weapon, The Bounty) plays cabbie Jerry Fletcher, a self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist, who finds government involvement in nearly everything, including assassinations, constant surveillance, and even water pipes breaking in the middle of the city. In addition, Jerry is obsessed with attorney Alice Sutton (Roberts, My Best Friend's Wedding), whose life Jerry once saved from would-be attackers some time back. Alice is a little disturbed by Jerry's uncouth, constant visits, but she can't seem to turn him away, even if he seems absolutely bonkers. However, one of Jerry's crazy theories looks like it just might be fact, as he is taken hostage one day and subjected to a rigorous, dangerous interrogation at the hands of CIA affiliate, Dr. Jonas (Stewart, Star Trek Generations), who wants to know what he knows about a certain conspiracy he's uncovered. Jerry escapes, but needs Alice's help, and together, the two of them have to root out the problem at its source before they find themselves victims of a real-life conspiracy.
It's Mel Gibson and Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon 3, The Goonies) doing what they do best: Gibson plays a crackpot and Donner directs Gibson. How could it go wrong? It almost does, as the focus of the film is in need of strengthening, and at 2 hours 15 minutes, a half hour of pointless scenes and conversations might easily be trimmed out, if not excised altogether.
Brian Helgeland (The Postman, Payback) provides a snappy, smart screenplay, which gets lost somewhere in the shuffle of the film's flashier showcases. Gibson is so at home going crazy that he appears to be not even using a script. Roberts is ingratiating as the straight-girl love interest, with the two stars playing well off of each others energy. Donner, while not quite at the peak of his form in execution, does manage to keep all of this mess from getting too unruly, and with a great deal of energy and zing, makes this a fun, rickety ride.
©2006 Vince Leo