Retro Film Review: Desperate Measures (1998)

in #filmlast month


Life is full of ironies, but few are as devastating as the one experienced by protagonist of Desperate Measures, 1998 action thriller directed by Barbet Schroeder. Frank Connor (played by Andy Garcia) is San Francisco police detective who feels compelled to break the law. With the help of his friend Nate Oliver (played by Erik King) he breaks into FBI database in order to find classified DNA information. His aim is to find potential bone marrow donor for Matthew (played by Joseph Cross), his 9-year old son suffering from leukaemia. To his utmost horror, it turns that the only suitable donor is Peter McCabe (played by Michael Keaton), psychopathic murderer currently serving life imprisonment without any possibility of parole. When politely asked to donate his bone marrow, MCabe refuses only to change his mind after learning that the surgical procedure could be excellent opportunity for escape. McCabe does escape before the actual operation and that puts Conner in impossible position – he must bring him back and, at the same time, prevent his trigger-happy colleagues from shooting him, because dead man's bone marrow is useless.

Despite preposterous plot, Desperate Measures for the most part looks like the film that could rise above Hollywood mediocrity. Dark cinematography by Luciano Tovoli is very effective in creative film's depressive atmosphere. Michael Keaton is great in the role of intelligent psychopath, and Joseph Cross is very convincing as the boy without any illusions about his most likely fate. Unusual situations in which characters find themselves could have served as a basis for powerful drama. This didn't happen. Director Schroeder chose different and more conventional path - the drama quickly degenerated into the series of spectacular but predictable action scenes, at times even more preposterous that the basic concept of film. To make things even worse, as the film nears its end, even less experienced viewers begin to feel that David Klass' script would conform to Hollywood's unofficial rules about children's fate in action films. Andy Garcia is also disappointing in the role of father; his acting is at times over -the-top and Desperate Measures is at times too hard to be taken seriously. Technically well made, but disappointing in its content, Desperate Measures is a film that could be recommended only for those desperate times when people don't have any decent viewing alternatives.

RATING: 4/10 (+)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on July 27th 2004)

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