Conspiracy Theory (1997)
Less Mad Max more Mad Jerry for Mel Gibson
What do we know? If I know what we know then I could tell you what we know and if anyone else knows! - Jerry
I have a conspiracy theory which out does all those more well known ones such as JFK, man on the moon, Princess Diana. My conspiracy theory revolves around the movie "Conspiracy Theory" as I believe that thanks to tampering from the Hollywood powers at B they took what was a good idea for a movie, with a decent cast and turned it into something mediocre by adding an out of sync romantic element to the story resulting in a disappointing ending. There can be no other reason to explain why "Conspiracy Theory" a movie which starts so well ends up being so poor.
Jerry (Mel Gibson - Ransom) is a New York taxi driver who's life is controlled by his fascination for conspiracy theories. Each night he scours the papers for hidden messages and publishes his theories in a newsletter that he takes great care in distributing to its recipients. But when one of his conspiracies actually appears to be more fact than fiction he finds himself under the heavy gaze of a mysterious set of agents who want to silence him before it's too late. His only hope is in the form of the beautiful agent Alice Sutton (Julia Roberts - My Best Friend's Wedding) who he is drawn to.
"Conspiracy Theory" starts quite well and as it focuses on the crazy world of Jerry it's quite captivating and at times funny. The character of Jerry may be quite similar to other characters in Mel Gibson's repertoire and I do mean an uncanny wacky similarity to that of Riggs out of "Lethal Weapon", but the insight into his world of conspiracy theorism, if that's a word, is compelling. You can't but help laugh at the way he bugs any of his passengers with his incessant chatter about conspiracies and even more so at the lengths he goes to not full prey to any of those theories he believes in.
If the movie continued in the same manner then "Conspiracy Theory" would have ended up a reasonable movie, but unfortunately in what can only be called a stupid choice to interject a love angle into the storyline causes it to fail miserably. You have to ask yourself whether someone who is not only beautiful but who has also managed to get a job as a government agent would fall for the eccentric Jerry. The answer is "No" but in Hollywood that doesn't matter and so introduce the ill fated element purely to try and make the movie more attractive to a wider audience who may not be your average X-file fan.
Ignoring the fact that the storyline has been compromised and that the character of Jerry is not so original, Gibson's portrayal of his paranoid tendencies is both brilliantly funny but also evokes a sort of sympathy as you do feel for what appears to be an ever spiralling case of delusion. When you watch him in his apartment going over routines in his head, asking himself questions over and over again you can't help but want to tell him get control of himself, but at the same time you can't but help laugh at some of his strange antics. It's not Gibson's best performance but will appeal to those who enjoy his whacked out detective in the "Lethal Weapon" movies.
Opposite Gibson and unfortunately getting the bum deal of playing Alice the government agent who provides a love interest is the delightful Julia Roberts. Now as a government agent she is far from convincing, not just because she ends up falling for Jerry, but because her character is shockingly 2 dimensional. It really feels like a seriously underwritten character built upon clichés. It doesn't work, although to give Roberts credit where it is due she does her best with it making the interaction between Alice and Jerry at least bearable.
Then of course there is Patrick Stewart who is pivotal in the role of Dr. Jonas. Well let's be honest Stewart never fails to impress and delivers another thespian like performance which adds a little gravitas to the character but at the same time gives him a slightly comical edge.
What stops "Conspiracy Theory" ending up a complete travesty is that Gibson partners up with his old buddy Richard Donner who does an admirable directional job. You get a sense that Donner saw what had happened to the storyline thanks to Hollywood intervention and so concentrated on two elements, building up the quirky character of Jerry and pacing the movie beautifully with enough action to try and detract from its obvious weaknesses. But it's not done to overkill, there are plenty of breathing spaces in-between all the various moments of mirth and action allowing you to contemplate what ever twist has been ushered your way. If I was going to be critical, and I will, there is one scene in the movie, just the one, which I felt Donner lost his grip on and it's one which featured such a lengthy bout of strobe lighting. That one scene just goes on too long and slightly spoils a good directional effort.
What this all boils down to is that like with many movies "Conspiracy Theory" is always best the first time round as on subsequent viewings the magic slightly vanishes and the plot holes start to appear. Plus once you look beyond all the action and quirky nature the resulting fact is that the romantic storyline spoils what should have been a better than average movie. But Gibson is his quirky best here and for those who like his slightly whacky, comical side will gain pleasure no matter how many times they watch this.
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