Case Number 11975


Universal // 1998 // 112 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 30th, 2007

The Charge

Someone knows too much.

Opening Statement

The NSA likes to kill autistic children. Witness the truth here.

Facts of the Case

When a young autistic savant named Simon (Miko Hughes) accidentally stumbles upon the secrets to an ultra-secret unbreakable government code, his life is immediately endangered. The NSA project chief, Lt. Col. Nicholas Kudrow (Alec Baldwin), fearing that the kid's decryption prowess will fall into the wrong hands, sends out his goons to wipe out the entire family.

Luckily, FBI agent Art Jeffries (Bruce Willis, Die Hard) lands on the scene in time, and protects Simon from the onslaught of enemies. But the NSA is tenacious about murdering small boys, and Kudrow does not relent. Jeffries, not knowing who to trust, runs, boy in tow, attempts to unravel the mystery before the President of the United States himself comes gunning for him.

The Evidence

Here we go for yet another flashback to a catalog title, thanks to the crack-like addiction I have to scoping everything out in glorious HD. This Bruce Willis actioner is my most recent hit, a film I had somehow managed to miss since the nine years it had been released.

And I certainly didn't miss out on a whole lot. While not a complete disgrace, Mercury Rising is a misfire, an experience that suffers from a handful of ridiculous moments, a far-out conspiracy plot and dearth of much-needed action. Because I like making lists, allow me to break down what didn't work for me:

Ridiculous Moments
Granted, most studio action films boast their share of credibility-stretching beats, but Mercury Rising, which played it straight for both hours of its runtime, is besieged by some headscratchers. Take the foot chase scene in Chicago. Willis's character spots the NSA assassin and gives chase, pushing through people, until the two find themselves in a standoff and trade some bullets. Willis spins around and calls for the 100-plus people or so to take cover and, choreographed as one, they all drop to their knees. Man, this was just a directorial blunder and it sapped the suspension of disbelief instantly. But my favorite comes when a bad guy buys it from a lethal dose glass. A shootout results in the shattering of windows, right behind the thug and they all explode and the goon runs to the camera, his face chopped to bits, stumbles and dies. Um, it's called "safety glass" for a reason, no?

Far-Out Conspiracy Plot
I think I pretty much covered this already. Hey, I can understand how moviegoers could dig a good old "My-Government-is-Comprised-Solely-of-Darth-Vader-Types" yarn, but Alec Baldwin is such a nutso caricature -- the guy even breaks out into the milked-dry "I'm a patriot!" speech -- and why he would immediately think whacking this kid is the answer to his problems? (And that his soulless henchmen wouldn't question the directive?!?)

Dearth of Action
We get a few sniffs at some mayhem, but ultimately, this "action" outing fails to deliver the goods. The film peaks with a pursuit scene on a train, as Willis takes on Peter Stormare, and promptly goes into lock-down "tension-builder" mode, which translates into surfing the Web in the public library. The finale doesn't fill the void either, hamstrung by overlong monologues and uninspired action choreography.

Still, all that being said, I'll say this much: the idea of protecting a resistant autistic child is interesting and Miko Hughes puts forth a solid enough performance to distant himself from the typecast cutesy roles of Full House and talking about vaginas in Kindergarten Cop. Willis does his typical hard-assed shtick and could easily have been John McClane if his character's name wasn't Art Jeffries; he's supposed to be a loose-cannon cop on the edge, but he struck me as fairly sensible and competent. Chi McBride, as Art's FBI comrade, is hampered by portraying a stupid idiot.

The anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen treatment (1080p, VC-1 encoded) holds up well to scrutiny. While not an eye-scorcher, the updated transfer will do you HDTV investment justice, bringing with it dramatically improved visuals throughout. However, as the disc recycles formerly released special features, there's too much pressure on the picture quality to deliver and for a mediocre-at-best film, it's just not up to the challenge. Good, but not great. For audio, you'll get a 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus track, which, unfortunately, is aggressive enough to subject you to the repetitive and saccharine soundtrack. Bonus materials: a robust, but dated, documentary called "Watch the Mercury Rising," which is more an overlong promotional feature; the deleted scenes are neither compelling nor cleanly rendered; and director Harold Becker's commentary will increase your knowledge of the filmmaking process, but his monotone delivery is likely to put you to sleep.

Closing Statement

The picture quality is improved and the beefier sound mix is active, but the movie itself is the weak link in the HD DVD upgrade.

The Verdict

Congress is mandated to launch an immediate investigation into the NSA and its controversial Disabled Child Murdering policy.

Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 75
Acting: 65
Story: 75
Judgment: 68

Perp Profile
Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic (Widescreen)

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 Stereo (French)

* English
* French

Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Director's Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Making-of Documentary
* Trailer

* IMDb