Extreme Measures

on September 27, 1996 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   Lately, whenever Hollywood has turned its eye toward fashioning conspiracy thrillers, the end result--as with "Extreme Measures"--has almost always been a hackneyed movie that's anything but thrilling. Here, Hugh Grant plays Guy Lathan, a British doctor transplanted to Manhattan who, two months way from assuming a prestigious post at another hospital, stumbles onto a strange plot that involves patients with mysterious symptoms and deleted hospital records regarding their cases. He won't stop looking into the matter, someone wants to stop him, and soon enough his life is upended by forces he knows nothing about.
   Judging by their movie, one would think the filmmakers had never seen a thriller (or had seen too many) before; how else to explain all the cliches piled up like so much deadwood? Instead of just killing Lathan, for example, which would make the most sense if he's such a threat, the bad guys decide to frame him for drug possession, an elaborate and hardly foolproof way to shut him up. And Lathan himself keeps making dumb moves, like investigating the mystery himself. "Extreme Measures" never puts an original spin on any aspect of its overly convoluted plot, which borrows heavily from the equally farfetched but more entertaining Michael Crichton hospital drama Coma." No attempt is made to keep the audience guessing as to who the evildoers are (they're readily apparent), and each plot twist is telegraphed far in advance.
   Most of the cast, including Gene Hackman as a superstar doctor and Sarah Jessica Parker as a sympathetic nurse, walk through trite roles. Though Grant tries mightily to create something of a character, he's been straitjacketed by the script, or by girlfriend/producer Elizabeth Hurley. A few more movies like this and Grant won't have an American film career to speak of. Starring Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman and Sarah Jessica Parker. Directed by Michael Apted. Written by Tony Gilroy. Produced by Elizabeth Hurley. A Columbia release. Thriller. Rated R for violence, language, some nudity and graphic ER activity. Running time: 110 min. Screened at the Toronto fest. Opens wide 9/27
Tags: Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael Apted, Tony Gilroy, Elizabeth Hurley, Columbia, Thriller, violence, nudity, graphic, death, thrills, drugs
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