September 8, 1999 -- "Desperate Measures" is a movie about people who are way over the edge, who are willing to do anything to get what they want. Strangely enough, one of these people is a cop. The other, no surprise here, is a convicted murderer.
Andy Garcia plays the cop, Frank Conner, who is desperate to find a bone marrow donor for his cancer-stricken young son, Matthew (Joseph Cross). He breaks into a federal database to discover a match, murderer Peter McCabe (Michael Keaton of "Pacific Heights"). Conner manages to get McCabe sprung for the operation, but McCabe foils his plan by breaking out of the high-security ward of the hospital.
Conner needs to catch McCabe without killing him so he can get the bone marrow needed to save his son. Conner, a psychopath, is willing to go to any lengths to free himself. Ordinarily in films like this Conner's character would try to maintain a certain level of morality, such as making sure no one gets killed by Conner while he is trying to both capture and protect him. This film, however, blithely throws morality out the window.
Conner is quite willing to sacrifice other lives to protect McCabe. He does try to protect his fellow officers to an extent, but it is clear what his first priority is. McCabe develops a genuine respect for Conner because they are similar in many ways and they are both desperate and quite willing to do whatever is necessary to get what they want.
Keaton is quite able to play the cold, menacing type, but he gives McCabe a little more humanity and humor than one would expect from a cold-blooded killer. McCabe's charming demeanor and strange accent fill out the package. It is an interesting choice by Keaton. The byplay between McCabe and Conner's son is also interesting.
As psychological thrillers go, this is not a bad one and the ending is a hoot. Most of it is unbelievable, a rip off of "Die Hard." The boy, who is supposed to be dying of cancer, doesn't look or act sick at all. His doctor, Samantha Hawkins (Marcia Gay), suddenly transforms into an out-of-character action hero. There are a lot of problems with the film, but it is also fun in a sick kind of way. It rates a C+.
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