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