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Laramie Movie Scope:
Chain Reaction

Great stunts, special effects, but no dramatic tension

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

August 3, 1996 -- My favorite line from this film is when a sage old timer tells the young hero, "If you run, you'll have every gun-toting punk in the country after you," or words to that effect.

That sums up the plot of a fair percentage of movies made every year in this country. It sums this one up too.

"Chain Reaction" is a tale about a young hero, Eddie Kasalivich (Keanu Reeves) who stumbles onto the secret of a cheap way to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen in water, thereby paving the way toward a cheap, clean energy source.

Of course the big oil companies and other interests don't want the secret to get out so Kasalivich is framed for the death of the leading scientist on the project, who was just about to put the secret of the water separation process on the Internet.

Just having Kasalivich to chase around wouldn't be interesting enough, so he's paired up with the pretty scientist, Lily Sinclair (Rachel Weisz). Morgan Freeman plays the mysterious bureaucrat Paul Shannon who is in charge of the project, and yes, Shannon was right, every gun-toting nut in the country ends up chasing them.

The story involves secret government organizations, secret projects, cat-and-mouse games between the CIA and FBI and several red herrings. It is a little like "Mission Impossible" in that regard. There are some big holes in the plot, but the plot isn't that important.

The acting is pretty good. Fred Ward is especially good as the lead FBI investigator. The stunt work and special effects are top notch. The photography is good too.

There were also some amusing movie cliches in this film. One was the drawbridge escape, although this time it wasn't done with a flying car. Another was two self-sacrificing bad guys. The sacrificial bad guy is a staple of the Bond films. What happens is this: there's a runaway reaction in the lab. Everybody is running for their lives before it explodes. Everybody, that is, except for a couple of sacrificial bad guys. Instead of running away, they stay behind, waiting to get blown up and to get into a fight with the hero, who, quite sensibly, is trying to escape the explosion.

The big problem I had with this film is there just wasn't much dramatic tension to it. Action films require a strong villain, and a strong conflict between the villain and hero which must be resolved. This film has none of those two elements. One of the main bad guys, Shannon, is extremely enigmatic. He is not entirely a villain, either, and there is no resolution to the conflict between Kasalivich and Shannon. I found the end of the film to be quite unsatisfying for that reason. It rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1996 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)