Keanu Reeves proves a match for any Scwharzenegger or Stallone.
Who needs muscle when you've got a mind? You still wind up in a
tight spot if the chase is on, and it's possible (and often more
interesting) to use strategy as a way of escape instead of
smashing everything in sight.
After years of research, a team of scientists and technicians
working in a University of Chicago lab manage to discover a
method to harness the power of hydrogen from water in a way that
could easily make it replace gas and oil and become a new source
of clean, limitless energy. (Actually a machinist is the one
responsible for accidentally discovering the one missing key to
the process, in an Alexander Fleming kind of way.) But is it
good for business, the equilibrium of politics and the
maintenance of world power? Some scientists will never learn to
watch their backs. Once the discovery is made, the lab is
sabotaged in order to keep Dr. Alistair Barkley (Nicholas Rudall)
from releasing the secret to the world. Did he really think
'they'd' let him? Student machinist Eddie Kasalivich (Keanu
Reeves) and physicist Lily Sinclair (Rachel Weisz) are framed
quicker than you can say 'sonoluminescence' and a chain reaction
begins that rumbles more fiercely than a tank full of water
bubbles. They flee cross country with every imaginable federal
agency in pursuit behind them and try to unravel clues that will
reveal who is responsible for their predicament. In the
meantime, they get to know each other better. And keep running.
The main action sequence of the film involves Reeves running up
an opening bridge and one can't help but wonder if we'll get to
see a dead horse hanging from the edge. No. Instead he works
his way down to the lower level and escapes the madding crowd.
Supposedly, he did all this stunt work himself. The insurance
costs must have been stupendous. Another action sequence has
Eddie and Lily escaping (once again) in an ice boat across the
lake (a kind of Everglades boat that just happened to be on
location). Don't you just love action thrillers? This one is
lots of fun and has a more interesting and logical plot than
As the chase continues, the only one Eddie can turn to is his old
friend and mentor Paul Shannon (Morgan Freeman) who runs the
organization which was responsible for funding the project. Just
remember, Eddie, that even when you're on the run, calling for
help is easier with a call card. Everyone seems to be out for
him. They become even more convinced of his guilt when they
discover a past history as an activist. Eddie is what you call
'somewhat suspect', considering he has had more than a passing
relationship with bombs. Shannon knew about this, but never
mentioned it to the other pursuant agencies. Why should he, it's
all part of the past?
Director Andrew Davis, who has handled such actors as Steven
Seagal and Chuck Norris in the past, puts Keanu on the fast path
this time. A notable cast, backed up by such talents as Brian
Cox, Fred Ward, and Joanna Cassidy manages to give decent
performances within the confines of J.F. Lawton and Michael
Bortman's script which, in its turn, gives enough meat for the
actors to create interesting characters without allowing them the
space to explore any great depths.
A sharp witted reporter recently said, in reflecting on the
presidential election and politics in general, that the two most
common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.
Chain Reaction is an enjoyable thriller that manages to cleverly
unite both elements in a plot of political intrigue where the
good guys are (unexpectedly?) hurled toward destruction. In
other words, Oliver Stone is not the only one with a patent on
conspiracy theories. In today's world, if you don't believe in
conspiracies, you're not in touch with reality.
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett