Extreme Measures: A Review by Nate Hill


Sometimes, the extremity of the Hollywood thriller gets in the way of an otherwise fascinating and genuinely thought provoking moral dilemma that no doubt had its roots in a much simpler script. A script starts with an idea, an idea which is gradually enveloped in layers of planning, execution and cinematic hubbub, much like a pearl in an oyster. The idea at the centre of Extreme Measures is indeed a pearl, a concept which provokes endless rumination on the ethical and logistic aspects of practices carried out by a sect of radical doctors in New York that definitely live up to the titular adjective of extreme. Gene Hackman has always been just that in his work, portraying intense and steadfast alpha males who go to heinous lengths to prove points and achieve goals, and show the briefest glimpses of humanity when you’d least expect it, and often when it’s far too late. As Dr. Laurence Myrick, Hackman is terrifyingly self assured and brutally willing to sacrifice the lives of unwilling homeless people by the dozens as guinea pigs in his cutting edge research, work that will hopefully one day cure patients who have been paralyzed. Any scheme as elaborate as this will eventually be sniffed out by someone, in this case young upstart ER doctor Guy Latham (Hugh Grant and his hysterical Shoegaze haircut), who begins to notice vagrants with horrific symptoms passing through on his watch, and digs a little deeper. Guy is eventually harassed, hounded and has his reputation ruined in order to shut him up, but he doesn’t quit, enlisting the help of a plucky colleague (Sarah Jessica Parker) to track down potential victims among the hordes of New York City’s homeless population, and put a stop to what he perceives as barbaric, and what his pursuers just write off as the necessary price of progress. The elements of a chase film are all there, as always with this type of thriller, but considering the potential of the film’s themes, they take the action aspect miles too far, especially with David Morse as a rogue FBI agent who is so overtly sinister and bombastically rabid that I’m surprised he didn’t give away Hackman’s whole charade years before, through sheer brashness alone. They reign it in a little bit for an electrifying monologue from the Hackster on why his methods are both needed and justified. He’s scarily convincing until Grants’s compassionate rebuttal, which although well written, isn’t delivered with the same conviction as his more talented co star’s argument. Then they go and ruin it with an achingly half assed action sequence again. This one wrestles with notions of being smart and entertaining, somewhat failing to realize that it could have been both, and gotten rid of some intrigue and focused on exploring the logistics of it’s scenarios more thoroughly. 


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