Mercury Rising (1998) starring Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Miko Hughes, Chi McBride, Kim Dickens, Robert Stanton, Kevin Conway directed by Harold Becker Movie Review

Mercury Rising (1998)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Bruce Willis and Miko Hughes in Mercury Rising

Some Average Art from Willis

"Mercury Rising" aims to be two things, a clever thriller and an action thriller; unfortunately it is a master of neither spending more time on the action side than the clever side of things. And it's no real surprise as in "Mercury Rising" we once more have Bruce Willis playing a heroic cop with authority issues and problems. That isn't to say there isn't some cleverness going on within "Mercury Rising", there are some really nice scenes bordering on the ingenious but at the same time there are far too many which go beyond clever to being daft. In fact the whole set up borders on the daft with an autistic kid cracking an impossible NSA code which happens to have been put in a puzzle book. But whilst daft and favouring the action "Mercury Rising" is entertaining but rarely delivers more than anything which is average.

After getting caught up in a bank job whilst working undercover FBI Agent Art Jeffries (Bruce Willis - 16 Blocks) finds himself disciplined for punching one of his fellow agents in anger. Demoted from undercover work to monitoring wire taps Art finds himself called upon to try and find an autistic boy called Simon (Miko Hughes - Pet Sematary) when his parents are discovered dead. Whilst everyone else thinks it's suicide Art believes it's something more and finds himself along with Simon on the run as fugitives when he discovers that the NSA are behind the deaths and also want to kill Simon as he is a security risk.

Bruce Willis, Miko Hughes and Kim Dickens in Mercury Rising

It is very obvious that "Mercury Rising" has pretensions of being a clever thriller as we have this autistic child who is a whizz at doing puzzles. But unfortunately it never once really manages to make this side that interesting and as such relies heavily on the action side of things. So what this means is we have Bruce Willis playing an FBI agent who does whatever he can to protect the child from being killed by some bad guys, more often or not that means either fighting, shooting, chasing or trying to escape from bad guys. And that also means that "Mercury Rising" end up being less than clever and more generic as we get dull drama punctuated by stereotypical action scenes. It is the sort of thing which Bruce Willis does so well but as such is also no different to countless other movies.

What is a shame is that within the storyline there is a great grey area which could have been explored as to how far across the line someone should go to do their job. Art constantly pushes the boundaries of his job as an FBI agent to the point where he ends up a fugitive on the FBI's hit list. And you have Nick Kudrow the head of the NSA who to be honest is trying to do his job by making sure the top secret code doesn't fall into the wrong hands and as such goes over the moral line with his willingness to murder to protect the code. But rather than being an interesting exploration of what is right and wrong "Mercury Rising" ends up opting for action rather than moral exploration.

Despite this reliance on action to make it work there are some nice scenes, ones which actually deliver atmosphere without resorting to action. One of the best is in the hospital where Art and Simon get into a lift with a nurse and then a bad guy gets in, each other knowing exactly who they are and what there intentions are all the time Simon is counting down the numbers on the display as the lift descends. It's great because whilst there is this almost humour to it there is also great tension as you know at some point the lift will stop. And that is not the only scene as there are some other great scenes be it which deliver action or intelligence.

Unfortunately for every really clever scene there is at least 10 times as many average scenes which lack intelligence. The whole technology side of things with emails etc is almost patronising to the viewer and the way that Art manages to solve the clues which lead him to the boss of the NSA is cheesy. And that is what really spoils things; it ends up too often bordering on the corny as it ends up favouring action over anything close to a realistic storyline.

As already mentioned "Mercury Rising" is familiar territory for Bruce Willis with him playing Art the FBI agent with authority issues and a couple of other problems. And as such whilst Willis plays this sort of character so well, delivering sarcasm and heroicism in equal measures it is nothing we haven't seen him do before. Yes it is entertaining but the more times he plays this sort of character the more generic it becomes. And to be honest all the characters in "Mercury Rising" are pretty generic from Alec Baldwin as NSA boss Nick Kudrow through to Kim Dickens who plays Good Samaritan Stacey. The only exception is Miko Hughes who plays Simon a difficult character for a young actor to portray as he tries to take on the mannerisms of a child with autism. It does feel like every autistic tick has been built into this one character and makes it at times feel a little too much but Hughes carries it off and you do believe that in Simon we have a child who struggles to live what for others is a normal life.

What this all boils down to is that "Mercury Rising" ends up a rather average action thriller and it is disappointing as the storyline has great potential to be something more than a movie which feeds on action. But it is an action thriller and as such Bruce Willis is entertaining as another heroic cop who finds himself taking on the bad guys and his own FBI team mates whilst protecting a young child. It is a case that we have seen it all before but it is still entertaining.