January 12, 1997 -- While it seemed like "Alien" all over again, with echoes of "Jaws" and "Die Hard," "The Relic" is a better-than-average science fiction film.
Set in the dark, creepy underbelly of a large museum, this familiar story takes us prowling around in the wetness and darkness while people are picked off one by one by a horrible monster.
One of the similarities between this film and "Aliens," for instance is that both films feaure claustrophobic sets with dripping, slimy monsters on the loose. Both this film and "Aliens" were produced by Gale Ann Hurd ("The Abyss") who is very partial to strong women characters. In "Aliens" it was Sigourney Weaver, of course. In this film it's Penelope Ann Miller ("The Shadow") as the pretty doctor, Margo Green.
Tom Sizemore ("Heat") plays the Die Hard-type character, Lt. Vincent D'Agosta, a rugged big-city homicide detective who's smarter than he looks. Both Miller and Sizemore have good screen presence and they've got chemistry, too.
The plot of the film is about as silly as can be. There's some mumbo jumbo about ancient tribal genetic engineering fungus or some such nonsense, but it's clearly just an excuse to have this monster running loose.
Then there's the scene out of "Jaws" where the head of the museum, Ann Cuthbert (academy-award-winner Linda Hunt) argues for the opening of the museum to open so the monster can eat the patrons, or is that the mayor wanting the shark to eat the tourists?
Despite that, the monster in the dark stuff works because the lead actors are very effective and there's a veteran director, Peter Hyams ("Narrow Margin," "Sudden Death"), who's at the top of his form. He works the formula for all its worth and keeps you right on the edge of your seat. This film rates a B.
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