Dr. H and I are going on a bad movie bender. Not your typical “bad” movies involving low budget productions or films that go right to dvd though. Instead we are looking at bad movies that had the money, supposedly had the talent and yet managed to create a pile of dung.
Our first look is at Chain Reaction (1996) starring (among others) Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman. This “film” had a budget of Fifty Million Dollars — that is right, dollars, not pesos or yen but greenbacks. Despite an almost bottomless checkbook, the filmmakers managed to create something that I could not in good conscience feed to a goat. Not only did it have the cash but some seasoned cast members as well. First there is Morgan Freeman (playing Paul Shannon), a solid actor though he has made other bad movies besides Chain Reaction. While I personally am not a fan of Reeves, who plays the lead, Eddie Kasalivich, plenty of other people would disagree with me. There is also Fred Ward as “FBI Agent Leon Ford,” an actor who starred in one of (in my opinion) the great underrated movies “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.” And there is my favorite actor of this bunch, Brian Cox, playing the evil Lyman Earl Collier. Cox is in two of my favorite movies: first he plays the real/original Hannibal Lector in Michael Mann’s 1986 production of “Manhunter” and also co-stars in another of my favorites, “Super Troopers” (2001) as Captain O’Hagan.
Now with fifty million dollars and a high caliber cast someone, somehow, somewhere cobbled together Chain Reaction. I could not believe it and neither could Dr. H.
Eddie Kasalivich (Reeves) is a student working with a team from the University of Chicago to create the greatest most abundant clean burning and healthy form energy from bubbles. Though this team had been without success, while he was working at home Eddie discovered the secret unlocking all the energy in the tiny bubbles. He perfects the machine and everything works and is stable. Yeah the world’s energy problems have now been solved by a college student working at home!
But this is only the beginning, because after the celebration, he has to go back to the lab and get his motorcycle. While there, Eddie discovers his leader dead and the reactor about to explode. Then, get this, he runs to his bike and speeds away and then the reactor explodes like a nuclear bomb. Luckily Eddie and his bike outrun the explosion’s shock wave and when it finally does catch up to him, he had skidded off into a ditch so the explosion (destroying eight city blocks) goes over him.
Now Reeves begins the marathon. Because of some planted evidence Reeves and his female colleague, Lily, are framed and on the run from about every law enforcement agency in the world for the next ninety minutes.
As if the viewer didn’t know it by now, the explosion was a plot hatched by some black operations government agency to destroy the science behind the great energy source. Eddie is able to track these rogue government agents to the “C-Systems Research” facility where they are trying to replicate the experiment. Eddie sneaks into the lab (where he finds Lily, who was kidnapped and forced to continue working on the project) and fixes the machinery so that the next morning another scientist discovers the working reactor and everyone parties.
Ah hah! Luckily for someone Freeman is suspicious, gets a download of the data and secretly provides a copy to his assistant. He then finds Eddie at a computer in the C-Systems Research board room. Eddie begins to negotiate his release in exchange for making the reactor work. But someone’s bluff is called at this point—I really could not tell whose—and Cox’s character Lyman forces Eddie to have the reactor explode but not before Reeves was able to send not only proof of his innocence to the FBI, but blueprints of the reactor to “hopefully a couple thousand” international scientists as well. He must be really smart to know and remember a couple of thousand scientists and their fax numbers. Eddie obviously has a higher calling, to the world and to science. But first there is more running that has to be done because the base is self-destructing so Eddie and Lily must keep running to meet the FBI which is now convinced of their innocence. Morgan Freeman escapes through a back door to a chauffeured sedan and is last seen dictating a memo to his assistant Anita informing the Director of CIA that C-System is “…no longer a viable entity. Will be in contact.”
Whew. The world’s cleanest, cheapest and safest form of energy is now for everyone to consume. All thanks to Reeves’s ability to run long distances without breaking stride and know and remember a couple of thousand fax numbers. Dr. H near the end of the movie said “My God Man Kill Me, Please Kill Me,” but I just didn’t have it in me to put him down. Chain Reaction and its cast were nominated for only one award, with Keanu Reeves being nominated for the Razzie for Worst Actor, which he lost to both Tom Arnold and Pauly Shore. Well at least Reeves didn’t win the Razzie.