Sony // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 27th, 2008
Hell hath no fury like revenge...
Val Kilmer (Willow -- you have no idea how long I've been waiting to use that) unloads his direct-to-DVD star power in this half-baked tale about a one-legged soldier and his grudge match against a batch of corrupt xenophobes in Arizona.
One night, while on patrol in Iraq, a bad-ass Marine named MacPherson (Kilmer) is swept up in the carnage of a child suicide bomber, which sends him home minus a leg. Now burnt out and ravaged by visions of that night, he spends his days bumping uglys with Eastern European prostitutes and staring off into space.
Fast forward a bit, and he gets a call from one of his platoon buddies asking for his help in a backwater town in Arizona. Reluctantly, MacPherson drags his butt to the U.S./Mexico border, where he's immediately met by a cadre of hyper rednecks insistent on acting tough and taunting the new guy into a bar-fight. But the longer MacP spends in the town, the more he learns about the corrupt man running it (Gary Cole) and his sinister approach to dealing with illegal aliens. This @#$% is about to get real.
If I can make it through my life without having to watch an "action" film that's as stupid and boring as Conspiracy, then I can die with tranquility. Never once in its 90-minute runtime did this film ever make me think it was anything more than a low-budget, damned-to-DVD action attempt. Tedious, goofy, overacted, and packed with laughable social commentary, Conspiracy flails about helplessly, desperately trying to stay away from the Abyss of Forlorn Movies That No One Cares About, but try as it might, it succumbs, and the world is better off for it.
Look, I don't want be overly harsh, and I always try to pinpoint at least a molecule of silver lining, but the fact is Conspiracy pissed me off. Maybe it's because I still have a soft spot for all things Madmartigan, but I still like Val Kilmer, and he seems to be more fit in this film than in recent outings, and he was utterly useless here. Whether he was angry or apathetic or drunk with homicidal rage, his MacPherson character launched into mood-swings that were indistinguishable from each other. I will give him credit for doing a semi-shocking one-legged nude scene in the shower, though beyond that, this is an action hero that pretty much slept-walked through the entire affair.
And who can blame him? He's forced to deal with an incredibly boring action plot. See, Rhodes (Cole), the villain, is in charge of -- are you ready for this -- Hallicorp, a major defense firm that is ensconced in global wars. Not only does he crave power and loves screwing around in combustible wartime situations so he can make money of off arms sales and rebuilding costs, but, even worse, he likes to kill illegal aliens. Loves it, in fact. Rhodes' idea of a good time is gathering his halfwit deputies together, heading into the desert, and picking off illegal immigrants as they make a dash for the border. This is of course explained away because they're "patriots," not "vigilantes," which is a not-so-subtle metaphor for the Minuteman Project. Last I checked, they didn't slaughter Mexicans. Regardless, f -- -- Hallicorp.
As lame as the acting and plot are, the unforgivable misfire is the dearth of action. Sure, the disc cover may show explosions with Val Kilmer holding a shotgun in the foreground, but aside from a plodding car chase and a brief fistfight in a diner (this brief: that the bad guy swings, misses, falls forward, bangs his head on the counter, bounces back, lands on the table, knocks himself out) there is barely any action to speak of. It isn't until the final 15 minutes that MacPherson finally pulls out his gat and starts shooting fools, and even this violence is unrewarding, poorly choreographed, and lacking anything resembling tension. Plus, the bad guys are more than willing to let themselves get offed, standing in the middle of the dirt road, just begging to take a round in the eyeball.
Simple DVD release from Sony: a fine-looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and fine-sounding 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, buttressed by a bunch of trailers and that's it.
Revoke this one's temporary work visa.
Guilty for conspiracy to bore.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R