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Shadow Conspiracy
Starring Charlie Sheen, Linda Hamilton, and Donald Sutherland
Directed by George P. Cosmatos

Served up for dissection this time around is Shadow Conspiracy, a thriller so tightly written that, should you make the mistake of leaving your seat for a quick trip to the little person's room, you will return refreshed and totally confused as to what happened while you were gone.

Shadow Conspiracy takes the well worn theme of Innocent Man Caught in Circumstances Beyond His Control and repeats it to the point of ridiculousness. It presents the notion of a secret government waiting in the wings, whose tech is so high, whose reach is so deep, and whose killers are so silent and well connected that, well, if this movie were set in Los Angeles you would probably believe that O.J. Simpson was framed.

It is a perfect example of how a thin but plausible story idea can be overwritten to death.

Charlie Sheen stars as Bobby Bishop, Special Assistant to the President. Bishop is, apparently, the only man who can convince the President not to make a certain speech, the result of which could be the utter destruction of the Stock Market and our way of life as we know it. He then has to put the kibosh on a story by reporter Amanda Givens (Linda Hamilton) that would spill the beans. So far so good.

Bishop has a friend, Dr. Yuri Pochenko (Theodore Bikel), who heads a think tank which uses a super-powerful computer program to track the misdeeds of our government. Must be a damned good program, as a silent killer blows away his tank-mates and sends him running, panicked, to find Bishop -- which he does just in time to utter the words "traitor" and "shadow." Pochenko gets popped. Bishop is holding the body. Murder suspect, take one.

So far so good. Bishop calls his boss, Chief of Staff Jacob Conrad (Donald Sutherland) and is given a place to meet oodles of law enforcement officials who will convey him safely back to the White House. Bishop shows, the Man-With-No-Tongue starts blasting away (having gotten to the rendezvous first), and the filmmakers start pointing big red arrows at who in the government is the bad guy. Too darn obvious, but still okay.

Reporter Givens re-appears to help uncover the conspiracy, and before you know it, there's another murder and the pair are on the run. Wherever they go, the body count rises. The cops can't find them. The FBI can't find them. What's left? You guessed it -- Super Secret Spy Technology!

Nicholas Turturro gives the term "comic relief" new meaning, appearing as a SuperSpyTech named Grasso who really gets off on his work. Grasso has written a computer program so powerful that it can simultaneously eavesdrop on fifteen thousand people. It is so powerful it could probably tell you who you had lunch with a year ago last Tuesday, and where the waiter who served you lived. And the social security number of the waiter's theatrical agent's ex-wife.

Shadow Conspiracy just doesn't know when to leave good enough alone. I haven't even mentioned the use of spy satellites. Or the assassination plot. Or the accidental loss of incriminating evidence. Or the fact that the audience was in stitches because the whole thing was so ridiculous. Shoot the writers, folks. Good thrillers know when to say "enough." Bad thrillers don't. As far as Shadow Conspiracy goes, enough is never enough.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Shadow Conspiracy, he would have paid . . .


That's for the inadvertent yucks. Shadow Conspiracy is flat out terrible.

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