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Chain Reaction
Starring Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz and Morgan Freeman
Directed by Andrew Davis

It can't be an altogether bad thing when an audience leaves a theater smiling and laughing. Unless of course the movie that they sat through was supposed to be a gripping, edge-of-your-seat chase thriller.

Director Andrew Davis (who is responsible for everything) is detail oriented. Everytime Cranky suspected a continuity error, a logical explanation surfaced almost immediately. That kind of attention makes the other plot flaws, believe it or not, less serious. For example: a man is shot. An ice boat powers its way across a frozen lake to arrive less than a minute later; and provide a method of escape for a pair of fugitives. Far fetched? Maybe. Impossible? Maybe, maybe not.

Why does Chain Reaction fail? It tries too hard.

Cold fusion is the Holy Grail of energy. Theoretically, it could produce everything we need for all time, cheaply and cleanly, from nothing more than the hydrogen in a glass of water. Scientists have been trying to crack Nature's code for years, to unleash the Power. In experiments in an abandoned Chicago mill conducted (appropriately enough) by the University of Chicago, Eddie Kasalivich, a machinist (Keanu Reeves) accidentally stumbles across the key to Pandora's box. Within a day the leader of the project is dead. The experiment itself has gone haywire and destroyed 8 square blocks of the South Side. The FBI shows up and shortly thereafter, Reeves and Lily Sinclair, an English physicist played by Rachel Weisz, are on the run, accused of murder and espionage. It isn't so much that they are blatantly and clumsily framed, which they are, it is that they constantly escape by the skin of their teeth in ways that just don't ring true.

To wit (and I'm going to give away a very minor escape scene here. If you don't want to know, skip this paragraph) the man shot up in the second 'graph is a cop. He is shot by a marksman in a helicopter behind Reeves and Weisz. The chopper flies away over a vast expanse of frozen lake, easily visible to the cops that arrive shortly thereafter. Reeves, dum-dum machinist that he is, has already stolen the cop's gun -- making him suspect in that murder. The medics show up just as our heroes get to the lake shore, and Reeves teaches himself how to drive an ice boat just in time to get away from the land based cops. Of course the helicopter is following him by air and the escape from that is, in one word, unbelievable.

Chain Reaction isn't the worst thriller I've ever seen, but it doesn't come close to director Davis' The Fugitive. Let's be honest here, an honest guy fleeing the law is like beating a dead horse. Davis did it to perfection once. It should have been enough.

The identity of the bad guy is fairly obvious from the top. The reason for the murder is economically debatable and politically ridiculous -- saying any more would give the story away. The ending leaves the story open for a sequel which, hopefully, will not get made.

It costs Eight Dollars to see a first run movie here in New York City. If Cranky could set his own price for CHAIN REACTION he would pay....


I gotta give it that much for setting a summer movie in the midst of a bitter cold Chicago winter. When push comes to shove, there are worse ways to kill time, which isn't much of a compliment. But I can't blame the actors or the director or even the writer. There is so much out there that is so incredibly worse that I just can't. Even the presence of Morgan Freeman can't save this turkey.

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