Desperate Measures
Rating -

Thriller (US); 1998; Rated R; 100 Minutes

Michael Keaton: Peter McCabe
Andy Garcia: Frank Conner
Brian Cox: Captain Jeremiah Cassidy
Marcia Gay Harden: Samantha Hawkins
Erik King: Nate Oliver

Produced by Jeffrey Chernov, Gary Foster, Susan Hoffman, Lee Rich, Josie Rosen and Barbet Schroeder; Directed by Barbet Schroeder; Screenwritten by David Klass

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Written by DAVID KEYES

"Desperate Measures" is supposed to introduce us to what some call "the dawn of a new serial killer genre," but I'm undecided. Oh yes, it has elements that belong in a serial killer film, but the story and premise are not that of such material. This can be a good thing, but at this movie, I had really mixed feelings; especially after seeing it just hours after "The Apostle," one of the best films of 1998. I wouldn't consider this to be a bad film, but with it's simultaneous problems, it's not good, either.

I'm not insulting the whole movie despite what you think. There are moments within it that are as creepy and surreal as "The Silence Of The Lambs" and "Seven," and it has a story just as good as "Kiss The Girls." In fact, its story is the strong point here (well, at least most of the time). It is about detective Frank Conner, whose young son has just reached the brink of near death. Some of his most important vital organs are destroyed, and he desperately needs transplants. The only problem is, the transplants must come from an identical blood type, which is one of the rarest there is. The only person who can supply these organs with the correct match happens to be Conner's worst enemy, a sadistic, maniacal killer named Peter McCabe, played by Michael Keaton. This is one spooky character, and an interesting one. He's definitely among the great serial killers of our time, like Hannibal Lecter from "The Silence Of The Lambs."

However, where these two movies differ is in the formula. Hannibal was a psychic cannibal locked away in an institution, and was the only key to capturing another serial killer named Buffalo Bill. This Buffalo Bill spent the duration of the film killing victims, skinning them alive, etc. In "Desperate Measures," the killer, instead of helping to locate another, must choose between life in jail or saving an innocent little life. But it's the life of his worst enemy's next of kin, and he is, after all, a killer. Can he do this?

But he doesn't spend the entire movie helping (as Hannibal did in his own demented way). Halfway through the picture, where he decides to go in for the surgery, he changes his mind right in the operating room, and decides to make a great escape into the free world.

Alas, the story of saving another becomes the story of capturing the bad guy again. The part of the plot to save the young boy's life is instantly sabotaged for two smaller premises: one, where Conner has to either kill McCabe and destroy his son's chances for survival, or apprehend him alive. The second premise deals with, perhaps, the chances that this killer could get back out into the world and wreak havoc once again on an unsuspecting human being.

Okay, these not bad premises, but when a movie has a good one to start with, it does not need another. It does not need three. I was more anxious to follow the first premise to save this kid's life, but that was discontinued, perhaps because our attention was solely aimed at the killer himself. By the time all was said and done, I walked away, wondering what was going to happen to the kid, the police officer, and killer.

I dunno; I got mixed feelings here. Performances and dialogue were okay, but the story followed many different illogical and pointless patterns. If this is the future of serial killer movies, shall we retire them?

1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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