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Mercury Rising

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: Miko Hughes, Chi McBride, Kim Dickens

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  Walter Frith read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

MERCURY RISING is another of those tales that the Hollywood establishment loves. We find out again that deep within our government is a super-secret agency, whose agents lurk in the shadows to kill our own citizens, lest they foil its many and nefarious plans. NSA is the agency with the killer spooks this time, all to protect its new and supposedly uncrackable security code.

But even recycled stories full of balderdash can be interesting if written intelligently and cast right. MERCURY RISING's script by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, based on Ryne Douglas Pearson's novel, doesn't even have sense enough to put in a few twists. The story is so obvious from the beginning that director Harold Becker doesn't even try to have the actors hide anything as they march to its completely predictable and totally unbelievable conclusion.

It all starts when recently disgraced FBI agent Art Jeffries is put on a lost child case. Art is played with class by Bruce Willis in his standard action hero garb - constant one-day old beard and prominent cuts and bruises.

The "lost child" turns out to be a 9-year-old autistic savant named Simon, played beautifully and realistically by Miko Hughes from ZEUS AND ROXANNE. He and his parents have been ordered killed by a hissably wicked agency officer named Lt. Colonel Nicholas Kudrow. The Colonel is in charge of the security code, which Simon has managed to break. It seems that when a couple of "velociraptor" computers couldn't crack the code, two of Kudrow's nerds put an encoded string into a puzzle magazine to test "the geek factor," i.e. could anybody break the encryption using his mind alone. Simon turned out to be just such a superhuman.

"My wife says my people skills are like my cooking skills - fast and tasteless," Kudrow explains. As Kudrow, Alex Baldwin delivers just such a performance. He appears quickly and blandly, and then, thankfully, disappears again.

With Bruce Willis in the lead, the director keeps the action sequences coming fast and furious, which is a shame since it is during the quieter scenes between Art and Simon that the movie comes alive. Willis displays a remarkable tenderness and compassion for his young charge, and the chemistry between them always seems genuine.

The show's funniest scene occurs when, knowing that all the electronic equipment is being monitored, two of the people being trailed buy a typewriter at a flea market to foil the high tech eavesdroppers. But in a show rife with improbabilities, the killer manages to get everything typed on it but leaves behind the used carbon paper, which is in full view.

If you check your brain at the door and concentrate on the relationship between Art and Simon, the movie becomes watchable. And if you're the type that doesn't like surprises, this may be just picture for you.

MERCURY RISING runs 1:48. It is rated R for violence and profanity and would be fine for teenagers.

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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