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IN SHORT: Almost really really good.
The easy way out would be to dismiss Desperate Measures as a second rate copy of Silence of the Lambs, but that would be unfair.
The bare bones story in Desperate Measures -- cop vs. a bad guy -- is one that has been done to death in one form or another since film time immemorial. What makes every attempt interesting is how the "new" story gets from Point A (Cop's son has leukemia and only one man can provide the bone marrow to save him) to Point B (it's a Hannibal Lecter type!) to Point C (Happy Ending). You know the bad guy will escape. You know the kidlet will be in trouble. You know the cop will confront the bad guy. Everything in between determines if the movie is a hit or not.
Desperate Measures, on the whole, is a taut, tense and at times thrilling piece of work from director Barbet Schroeder and actors Andy Garcia and Michael Keaton. Unless you sit in an audience which starts to giggle. Then it's a preposterous, and thoroughly enjoyable comedy. No one laughed when Cranky saw it, so, when you go to see it, the second you think the happy ending should cut to black for the end credit roll, get up and walk out of the theater as fast as your legs can carry you. If you don't, the last scene of the movie flushes a really good film down the toilet faster than you know what through a goose.
Desperate Measures was ready almost a year ago and, for reasons unknown, has sat on a shelf. I don't know the reason, whether it was some suit who insisted on leaving an open door for a sequel, or the insistence of Schroeder on release cut. Whatever the reason, the party responsible should be hung up by his or her thumbs. They've killed a good flick.
Good cop Frank Connor (Garcia) is not so good a cop that he won't stoop to breaking into FBI offices to use their computers to scan for a genetic match for his little boy Matt (Joseph Cross). Before you ask, the mom is dead and dad is, presumably, a bad match. Why he can't go through channels to do the search is just one little glitch of many, and easily ignored as the movie plays out. The sole candidate is sociopathic killer Peter McCabe (Keaton) whose IQ tops 150. Just like Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter, this con doesn't blink. Amidst higher than high security, McCabe is brought to a San Francisco hospital for the procedure, from which he escapes, kills a lot, spills a lot of blood, everything you'd expect.
How he manages the escape, both from his bonds and from the hospital, is quite interesting. How Garcia manages to capture the guy -- killing him would render the marrow useless -- is even more so.
Marcia Gay Harden supports as the doctor who almost single handedly captures the nutjob (why she doesn't is one of the other glitches in the film). Joseph Cross plays the kidlet with an aggressively fatalistic air, quite a nice change from the usual.
Remember what I wrote about the last scene.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Desperate Measures, he would have paid . . .
'Cuz I had to sit through that last scene. I'm adjusting way up from what would be a $2 because you have been warned about that last scene.
I mean it. Get the hell out of the theater before it hits.
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