Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Hugh Grant,
Gene Hackman, Sarah Jessica Parker, David Morse, Bill Nunn, Paul Guilfoyle
Director: Michael Apted
Audio: English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer, Standard 1.33:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 118 Minutes
Release Date: December 14, 1999
Very rarely does one come across a suspense thriller with
intelligence like Extreme Measures.
It's a professionally made thriller that contains very smart characters,
brilliantly written dialogue, and even some Hitchcockian paranoia to go along on
the side. It's a thriller filled with ideas and issues to talk about after the
viewing. The movie deals very thoughtfully with the ethics and moral decisions
that come along with the profession of practicing medicine. Imagine if you were
the head doctor in charge, and you had two just arrived patients in the ER; one
a cop, the other a drug dealer, who both have minor gunshot wounds. To make
matters worse, only one room in the entire hospital building was available to
operate a patient in. Who would you operate on first, especially if the drug
dealer was in much critical condition? It's a startling moral value that I had
never thought about before this movie expressed it to me in an effective way.
At the same time, Extreme
Measures succeeds in creating a thoroughly intriguing suspense yarn. The
central plot is about numerous bodies that seem to vanish without a trace from
both the ER and hospital computer database at New York's Gramercy Hospital.
The film's hero is Dr. Guy Luthan, played by Hugh Grant in a marvelous
revelation of a performance. The mystery begins when Luthan encounters a
patient; a naked man who seems to be slowly dying from uncontrollable
convulsion. The patient dies a few minutes later before Luthan can determine
what was wrong with the man. He then goes to search for an autopsy report for
the deceased man, only to discover that the body, as well as all of the
necessary records for it, has mysteriously disappeared. At risk of losing his
medicine-practicing license, Luthan initiates a personal investigation as to
where the body went, and who was responsible. He questions everyone from workers
at the morgue, to his colleagues, to even his boss who explicitly warns Guy to
refrain from looking any further.
In the midst of those events, we are then introduced to
another key character, Dr. Lawrence Myrick (Gene Hackman). Myrick has just been
awarded a prestigious medal in his profession for his work on successfully
regenerating damaged spinal columns on lab rats. At a banquet celebration Luthan,
who admires Myrick's work asks for his opinion on what the reason for his
recently disappeared corpse could have been. Even Myrick himself seems befuddled
by Guy's point of questioning. At the same time, two corrupt cops, played by
David Morse and Bill Nunn, who appear to be interested in the disappeared
patient, begin to spy on Luthan, hoping to cease him from questioning any
It is here that Extreme
Measures uses a familiar plot device, which is the innocent man who has been
wrongly accused, but it doesn't lower the enjoyment of the movie. If anything,
it increases it and draws you in even more. In this case, Guy is suddenly
arrested for possession of drugs, which the cops find in his apartment when they
received a report of a disturbance at Luthan's apartment. We know that he has
been framed, but it is a very good set up since Luthan's has appeared
extremely paranoid to those around him. Suspended permanently by his hospital,
Guy continues his personal investigation, which leads him to some memorably
creepy areas where an endless amount of suspense is generated.
The movie's director, Michael Apted, does a wonderful job
of capturing the setting of New York, and especially creating an atmosphere of
mystery in the places that Guy finds himself in late in the picture. Mid-point
in the movie, Guy finds himself in an underground shelter, where it becomes
clear to him why his patient died, and why the body disappeared. It leads to a
spine-tingling, tension filled showdown in a nearby subway tunnel between Guy
and the two cops who are out to silence him.
I mentioned Grant's performance as a revelation, and it
truly is. Prior to this movie, Grant was basically known for his brash, dry wit
in such comedies as Four Weddings and a
Funeral and Nine Months. Here, he
breaks free of that mold, creating a totally believable performance of a doctor
who is very intelligent and isn't easy to fool. Credit should also go to
screenwriter Tony Gilroy, who creates a certain level of intelligence that you
simply don't find in thrillers. Extreme
Measures is one of the most effective, thought provoking thrillers of the
90s, and I highly recommend it to all suspense fans.
A surprisingly wonderful looking disc from Warner Bros.
Considering that the disc was given the old dual-sided treatment, I was curious
as to how the transfer would turn out. The results were more than impressive.
Image is continuously sharp, despite a few instances of grain that only present
themselves in a couple of scenes. An anamorphically enhanced presentation that
One of few audio transfers that delivers an A+ quality with a 2.0 Surround track. The soundtrack, action scenes, and every possible background noise is captured to enhance a highly suspenseful effect. An all-around surprise of transfer that is more excellent than one might expect.
Only a trailer.
Extreme Measures, and underrated movie, should be seen by all fans of thrillers, especially that of Hitchcockian suspense, which the movie delivers quite a bit of. A rare intelligent thriller, and one of 1996's best movies.