Mercury Rising (1998)

MercuryrisingposterHollywood tends to make films that are extremely predictable, and in this case, Mercury Rising would fall under the category of the clichéd conspiracy yarn dressed as a Bruce Willis film. However, that’s not the worst it could be, not by a long shot. The real problem with the film is that the producers attempted to make a movie centred around an autistic boy, but they wrote the character without doing any research whatsoever, and so what you get is a film that treats autism as if it’s a handicap (more than a few times do some of the more antagonistic characters use the word “retarded” to describe the boy).

Of course, I’m very sure that this was put in the film just for the sake of drawing attention to it, because it’s basically a by-the-numbers thriller from the age when people thought that computers were far more powerful than in fact they actually were (a trend perhaps best exemplified by the technoparanoia of The Net, made just three years earlier). The film tends to demand that the viewer stretch one’s suspension of disbelief as far as possible, which is perhaps the only way anyone can get into the idea of a nine-year-old autistic boy is being targeted by government assassins because he could crack a code that, allegedly, no computer could decipher, but was somehow slipped into a puzzle book by the code’s creators. I have autism, but I when nine, I wouldn’t have had the patience for such a thing, not as long I had video games. Besides, autistic or not, if a little kid could crack your top secret code, you don’t kill the kid, you fire the programmers.

The characters aren’t very convincing, and even Bruce Willis, one of the actors in the action film genre who could actually act, tends to suffer here. Unfortunately, watching the film’s autistic character isn’t any better. In fact, the kid is somewhat painful in this film. I tried showing sympathy for him, but he’s not exactly a likable character, and I can tell that Miko Hughes is trying his best to play a difficult role, but I doubt that he’s been given much to work with, and the character tends to spend of his screen time screaming. Alec Baldwin, the film’s villain, is by far the worst character here. For starters, Baldwin’s acting in this film is pretty lame, and as it turns out his character is the guy that thinks autism is some sort of handicap (this is pretty much the film that made me hate him forever). Worse still, he orders some of his men to kill the parents of an autistic boy just because he feels emasculated by the fact that his code was cracked by a child. And to top it off, he rationalizes himself by giving some idiotic, hypocritical speech about patriotism and “being part of a team”. Nobody other than a complete idiot would fall for that act.

The film presents itself in very bland fashion, which is odd when you consider what a $60 million budget could do. Why stop there, I can name more than a dozen films that did more with less, which brings to mind one question – where did all the money go? Wherever the budget went, we’re given an action film that looks like it just barely made out of the dreaded “made for TV” slot. Worse still, it doesn’t even satisfy in the action department, or at least not for long. Most of the film plays out like a contrived conspiracy flick, and in the end, that’s all it is. That being said, however, I still find it offensive because the producers had to use autism to make their boring movie more interesting, almost as though that’s all autism is to those hacks at Universal Pictures.

  • Score: 36%
  • Grade: E
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