Conspiracy Theory (1997)

Phew, what a mess!  For his fifth collaboration with director Rich-
ard Donner (LETHAL WEAPON I-III, MAVERICK), Mel Gibson plays a 
motormouth, maybe mentally ill New York City cabbie, Jerry, whose 
wild conspiracy theories are all but ignored by Alice (Julia Rob-
erts, acting all serious), the Justice Department employee that he 
has a crush on.  She not interested, but another person is:  a CIA 
psychiatrist (Patrick Stewart) who promptly kidnaps him.  Is one of 
Jerry's conjectures correct?  *Is* the metal strip in the new $100 
bill being used to track your movements?  Is Oliver Stone still 
alive, because he cut a deal with George Bush to spread *dis*infor-
mation?  Is this movie really about *any* of the crazed cabbie's 
theories?  No, no, and no.  As it turns out, there's some other 
nonsense going on here, involving and revolving around Jerry's 
background.  (Hint:  pay attention to an early scene where Jerry 
blacks out and flashes back, in quick succession, to images of an 
interrogation room, hypodermic needles, and Ms. Roberts herself.)
The *initial* premise is pretty good and is played, for a while, at 
a delightfully dizzying clip.  Mel is wider-open that we've ever 
seen him and, if his character's relationship with Roberts' init-
ially strains credibility, their combined star power is blissfully 
intoxicating.  (The highest wattage of the summer, perhaps?)  Even 
when the plot contrivances begin to intrude, the two remain a randy 
dandy screen pair.  There's a great scene in Jerry's fortress, er, 
apartment, with Alice trying to act casual as her hyperactive host 
tries to remember the combination to a locked coffee bean contain-
er.  (Which he stores in another locked container, his fridge.)  
Other hilarious moments, of which there are many, include a trio of 
memorable convention-breakers, where Alice ditches a tail, Jerry 
cold-cocks someone, and, later, eludes a foot pursuit, each in a 
uproariously unexpected fashion.  (That's Donner's own LADYHAWKE 
playing in the theater, BTW.)  

Let's see, other pleasures include... a brilliant title sequence, a 
jazzy score from Carter Burwell, and the worth-paying-to-see sight 
of Roberts pumping lead into one bad guy and slamming another's 
head into a wall.  Oh, pretty woman!  Getting to the latter, how-
ever, requires slogging through an increasingly overburdened and 
ultimately unappealing story.  The last hour of CONSPIRACY THEORY 
devolves from tolerable to torturous to almost unwatchable.  More 
stuff happens of the stupid shit variety than is worth mentioning 
here, except, perhaps, for a late sequence that has Alice locating 
Jerry in an abandoned wing of a mental hospital by hearing his 
voice carrying through the air ducts.  And here I thought it was 
wabbit season.  Good God, who rewrites these movies?  And do they 
arrive in nondescript black vehicles?  (Rated "PG-13"/125 min.)

Grade: C-

Copyright 1997 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: August 10, 1997

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