Volume 91, Issue 70
Tuesday, February 3, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Desperate for action? Measure this!
"LET ME ASK YOU A QUESTION, BABY... DO I MAKE YOU HORNY?" A very greased and buffed Michael Keaton plays the bad guy this time in Desperate Measures. That sure ain't Batman!
By Dan Yurman
When an escaped serial killer is loose on the streets, it's up to the police to seek him out and kill him to keep the city safe. When a nine-year-old child needs a bone marrow transplant in order to live, it's up to his parents and his doctors to find a donor as fast as they can to keep him alive. When an escaped psychopathic killer, loose on the streets, is the only compatible donor for a nine-year-old boy; making the choice between the safety of the collective and the life of a child becomes the issue and it's up to everyone involved to make that choice. Desperate Measures, a fantastic new film, deals with this very issue and it's up to every moviegoer to see it.
The film stars Andy Garcia as Frank Connor, a police officer who has been desperately searching for a bone marrow donor for his dying son. He finds out the only compatible donor is a sharp-as-nails serial killer named Earl McCabe (played by Michael Keaton), who is currently serving a life sentence for a series of brutal murders. While the operation is taking place, McCabe escapes and it's up to Connor to capture McCabe alive before the police kill him. Because if McCabe dies, his marrow will be no good and Connor's son will die.
This film's strongest element is its use of motif. It sets up a death triangle, similar to a standard love triangle and carries it throughout the film. If McCabe dies, Frank's son will die; if Frank's son dies, Frank will die emotionally; if Frank dies, the police will kill McCabe. It's an original set-up and it works brilliantly. Almost every confrontation is set up in a triangle, with each participant having something to gain and something to lose.
Another strong motif is the impossible choice. The film's basic premise presents the impossible choice of the collective versus the individual and throughout the film, various characters are put in this situation.
The choice each character is forced to make is one of the key aspects of character development. While the strong motifs are crucial to understanding the characters, the camera itself plays an important role, photographing the actors in a way that captures their mental and emotional state.
Cinematographer Monty Rowan, who has worked with experimental film director and cinematographic genius Sam Rami (Army of Darkness) for much of his career, has put together sequences throughout the film that capture the innermost thoughts of each character. The triangular standoffs are shot close with a claustrophobic feeling to capture the eyes of each character. The solo sequences are canted and off-balance, which gives an unsettling feeling to the entire film.
It's Michael Keaton, however, who steals the show. In an Oscar worthy performance, Keaton's portrayal of a demented genius is comparable to Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lector; probably better. His facial expressions and dialogue delivery throughout the film, especially during his confrontations with Garcia, is witty and charming, yet cunning and purely evil as well.
Desperate Measures is a film brings together the creativity of an original story with the brilliance of precise cinematic craftsmanship. It will, undoubtedly, be hailed as one of the best films of 1998 and will have others desperate to measure up to it.
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