Everyone loves a slice of Brucie action, some people more than others. I am one of the folks who can happily chomp through a bag on Tesco own brands tortilla chips with a pot of salsa and a stack of Bruce Willis action movies. I don’t really care what they are, as long as they aren’t Last Man Standing. What a piece of shit that was, talk about talking yourself too seriously. One of my all time favourite guilty pleasures is Hudson Hawk, I love it so much that I often time myself doing menial tasks by singing Swingin’ On A Star. This isn’t a review of that movie though. This is all about Mercury Rising, which was nowhere near as much fun by a large peg.
Bruce Willis stars as Burnt Out FBI Agent #709, who is busted down to working with newbie feds after pistol whipping a superior. He is assigned to find a missing child whose parents were killed in what initially appears to be a murder suicide. But it wasn’t some bizarre suicide pact, oh no, it was because their autistic child solved a super secret government code called Mercury printed in a puzzle book, of course! So NSA operatives are after this kid, and all that stands between them is Big Bruce Willis. I’ve often wondered why it is that every time I see an autistic male, between the ages of 19 and 33, on any TV show they are always conspiracy theorist nutbags. Well this film totally solved that riddle, because they were all pursued by a covert governmental organisation hell bent on wiping out autism through steely looks and gritted jaws.
So, in the 90s a bunch of science men types got together and spotted that a bunch of kids diagnosed autism had similar levels of mercury in their blood and this lead to the theory that mercury causes autism, although this is still yet to be proved it did provide the makers of this here film with a cool title and a name for their secret covert undercover code thing. I think it could be a touch exploitative if it weren’t handled so poorly, I recall one particular scene when one of the code boffins explains to the future head of NBC’s Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming that some autistic children are savants. I can only surmise that this piece of clunking, derogatory dialogue is put in place to inform the audience that those with autism can indeed do some things with a level of genius difficult to comprehend, which we already know from countless other media featuring autistic people. I refuse to believe that the head of some covert operations team deep within the NSA who spearheaded a program to create such a sophisticated code is unaware of the unlocked potential of autism. Its a throwaway exchange but one that stuck with me, highlighting the ignorance and bullish stupidity of this films premise.
While making the movie, I can only assume that Mr. Willis thought something along these lines: “I’ve played this character so many times before, that I can probably do this with my eyes closed.”
His eyelids cover literally more than 60% of his eyes at almost every point through this movie, only opening them fully if he is shooting or shouting. Its like he is sleepwalking his way through it, nice work if you can get it. Also, coaxing a good performance out of a child is an achievement, it is often why films with children in central roles that manage it are lauded as the second coming of movie Jesus. Harold Becker deserves an altogether different award for somehow managing to get the absolute worst performance from a child actor I have ever seen. A tampon stuck to a stick would have been more convincing than this brat, who interestingly enough played Gage in Pet Sematary. Ever since 30 Rock rolled around, I have found a new love for Alec Baldwin but that has also re-coloured his past performances with new levels of humour. Seeing his big puffy face delivering such stupid dialogue with a straight face is just a joy, and surely the reason he was cast as Jack Donaghy. The script tries valiantly to add some depth to Baldwin’s unfeeling baddie by having him repeat speeches justifying his evilosity to both himself, to Bruce and to his team, in the hands of a competent director it may have held some weight but in actuality it just becomes boring and repetitive and boring. And repetitive.
The action skirts a bizarre line between incredibly brutal at times, and incredibly tame elsewhere. The slaughter of Autistic Kid’s parents is ruthless and brutal, but the “nailbiting” (its not nailbiting, its fucking hackneyed, obvious, played out and you’ve seen it a thousand times before) conclusion is a blood-free washout. The best bit of action in the whole damn film is where Bruce battles the unrecognisable accent of Peter Stormare (deadly silent in this film, lest he be un-American) which, despite the spike of interest I registered while it occurred, was poorly green screened and is nothing you haven’t seen before in the likes of Temple Of Doom and every other film with a fight on a train in it. Hell, it was done better in Dogma for Christ’s sake.
Despite the piss poor acting and thoroughly exploitative premise, I somehow managed to enjoy this film. Its willful negligence of real life rules and rampant movie cliche abuse only served to maximise my enjoyment to Nth degrees. There is a cracking scene where Bruce and the NSA assassin go head to head in a busy street, its making me smile just thinking about it. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is a stupid piece of crap but it’s dumb fun with nothing under the surface. Mercury Rising is not content to be brainless squee inducing fun like Crank or The Stabilizer. If this movie had a brain, it would think it was the real deal. How a movie, in which an old-as-he-has-ever-looked Bruce Willis carries around a screaming child in a onesie, can take itself this seriously is just beyond me. Especially one put together so half-assedly as this, it just beggers belief. If you have a high tolerance for mainstream action crap, then stick this on and relax, everyone else stay away.
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