Extreme Measures (1996)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Medical Drama, Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Sep 27, 1996 (USA)  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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An ingenious and provocative medical thriller concept, an excellent cast of performers, and some intelligent, well-reasoned dialogue are sabotaged by the surprisingly dolorous tone and lethargic pace of director Michael Apted. Hugh Grant departs from his reliable comic mannerisms (the fluttering eyes, the stammer) to play a dedicated doctor who uncovers a vast conspiracy that's being undertaken, in the film's strongest and most original notion, with the best of intentions. Which is why it's unbelievable and inauthentic that Grant's character would be so aggressively wronged by those he's pursuing. The strength of the film is that the antagonist's argument is such a valid one; why wouldn't a more stringent effort be made to simply convert the amateur sleuth hero to the opposing team? The answer, of course, is that then there would be no traditional second act in which the hero slowly uncovers the truth, gets framed for drug possession, loses everything, and descends into the nether regions to get information from an underground homeless community. Bozo plot contrivances aside, Extreme Measures (1996) is just too slow, leaving the meat of its laudable central idea to the finale, when Gene Hackman, august and determined as the embodiment of evil's everyday banality, gets the film's best line: "If you could cure cancer by killing one person, wouldn't you have to do that?" It's a brilliant point of departure for a cinematic debate on ethics, but Extreme Measures (1996) leaves the most interesting questions for last, then leaves them unanswered.