johnlink ranks CHAIN REACTION (1996)

“What are you doing?!?”

“The best I can!”

I have never seen CHAIN REACTION before, and that exchange, from a trailer I saw probably 19 years ago, has been embedded in my head for near two decades. It’s the ultimate in 90s action one-liner. It’s up there with the great EXECUTIVE DECISION bit when Kurt Russell yells “We’re not gonna make it!” and Steven Seagal yells “You are!” before getting blown up. I miss cheesy crap like that.

Anyway. I finally saw CHAIN REACTION. It is amazing that I had never seen this because there are maybe three action flicks in the history of the 1990s that I have yet to see. That isn’t a brag. It’s a confession.


I watched CHAIN REACTION (1996) on 3.4.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

We’ll just start with this: If you don’t like 90s action-thriller cheese, stay away. This isn’t a genre defying piece of work like Director Andrew Davis’ previous THE FUGITIVE. It’s fitting that this was directed by the same guy, because it is clearly a FUGITIVE derivative.

A team of scientists is working on clean energy which turns water into an infinite power source (because, science!). The team is funded by Paul Shannon (Morgan Freeman) and run by a scientist (Nicholas Rudall). Their success is noted, and the system is blown up. The FBI (led by Fred Ward) is interested, especially because an engineer, Eddie (Keanu Reeves) and a physicist, Dr. Sinclair (Rachel Weisz at 26 years old), seem to be involved in the accident.

Of course, it is all a set up. They are being framed. They go on the run. Keanu outruns dozens of cops, he learns how to drive a hovercraft, he figures out how to fight off trained security and police, and he sneaks into a secret government facility undetected. If you want realism, go somewhere else. If you want some fun, this has more than enough for a single viewing.

The writing is typical 90s action fare. The one-liners are not frequent enough for my taste, the action follows a formula, and we get an extra arch-villain with the addition of CIA bad guy Lyman Collier (Brian Cox). What we end up with is a bunch of overqualified actors (except for Reeves maybe) having a bunch of fun in a semi-serious action movie. While derivative of things like THE FUGITIVE and SPEED and the like, it still works on a pure entertainment level.

If you want to try and extrapolate themes about the government being untrustworthy, go ahead. These are painted with broad strokes with an over-sized paint brush, but they are present. The movie doesn’t care about its themes, so we shouldn’t either.

There is not a whole heck of a lot to say about this movie without giving away what little surprise it holds. While it lacks any sort of depth, it does have fun. The score is wonderfully 90s. It makes me want to watch other movies made before computers got smart, like THE NET. But, truly, CHAIN REACTION is just there for fun.





~ by johnlink00 on March 5, 2014.

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