Desperate Measures

1998, R, 101 min. Directed by Barbet Schroeder. Starring Andy Garcia, Michael Keaton, Brian Cox, Marcia Gay Harden, Erik King, Joseph Cross.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Jan. 30, 1998

Desperate, indeed. While the crazed implausibilities in films such as Face/Off induce a fevered delirium that's like some sweet drug, the inane plottings in movies like Desperate Measures induce something akin to a numbing catatonia: It's cinema as anesthesia. David Klass' tortured screenplay requires a suspension of disbelief that would test even the most gullible. First, you have to set aside common sense to believe that state and prison officials would agree to release a sociopathic, convicted killer for a bone marrow transplant that may save the life of the young, leukemia-stricken son of a policeman. Then you must blindly accept that the convict can execute an elaborate escape from the operating table and wind up in control of the hospital as the son's immune system deteriorates while waiting for the donor graft. And then you must swallow whole the proposition that the cop would aid and abet the escapee, shielding him from his fellow police officers, because he can't allow his son's one chance to live to be exterminated, even if it means breaking the law, destroying property, causing mayhem, and endangering the lives of innocent people. (Andy Garcia's foolhardy father in Desperate Measures is the flip side of Mel Gibson's heedless papa in last year's Ransom; while madmen dictate whether their sons live or die, one man acts recklessly out of love, while the other acts recklessly out of principle.) The pairing of Garcia and Keaton as the pursuer and pursued doesn't click from the start. Their initial meeting should have played like that of Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter – a test of wits, intellect, and emotion, sharpened by a palpable tension. Instead, it comes off as sterile as the washed-out walls of the prison room in which it occurs. Although the symbiotic relationship that develops between the determined two men, by virtue of their simultaneously conflicting and converging interests, is the only thing here that's remotely intriguing, it's an angle quickly enveloped by the movie's overall improbability. As the film's pandemonium increases and policemen are shot, propane canisters explode, and a major medical care facility is under siege, one is reminded of that immortal observation uttered by Bill Murray in response to another kind of pandemonium in Tootsie: That's one nutty hospital.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Barbet Schroeder Films
Murder by Numbers
Personal accountability is all well and good, but if I were in Barbet Schroeder's Davanzatis, I'd invoke the Alan Smithee pseudonym a thousand times over ...

Russell Smith, April 19, 2002

Barfly
...

Feb. 27, 2021

More by Steve Davis
Sin
Portrait of the original Renaissance man lets obsession obscure the vision

Feb. 19, 2021

The World to Come
Frontier romance speaks of a love that cannot speak the name it does not yet have

Feb. 12, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Desperate Measures, Barbet Schroeder, Andy Garcia, Michael Keaton, Brian Cox, Marcia Gay Harden, Erik King, Joseph Cross

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle