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Chain Reaction

review by Eric Dahl



Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 106 minutes

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Morgan Freeman, Rachel Weisz, Fred Ward, Kevin Dunn and Brian Cox

Screenplay by: J.F. Lawton and Michael Bortman

Directed by: Andrew Davis


Studio: Fox

Retail Price: $22.98

Features: Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (24 Scenes)

Released: May 22nd, 2001



"Chain Reaction" is similar to director Andrew Davis's more famous film, "The Fugitive", in that they both are stories about a man who is accused of a crime that he didn't commit. The man then goes out, evading the government throughout the way, to clear his name. Sure, there are a couple of new characters here, a scene change or two there, but at it's core, it's basically the same story. The main differences are that "The Fugitive" was an excellent first-rate thriller which featured superb performances from it's two leads, Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, and "Chain Reaction" is an average, at best mildly entertaining thriller which features good, but not excellent, performances from actors Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman. Everyone knows that Morgan Freeman is capable of greatness: when in doubt, go to your nearest video store and rent "The Shawshank Redemption", "Driving Miss Daisy", or "Seven". His performance, no doubt, is directly related to what he was given to work with script-wise. To criticize Morgan Freeman's performance in a summer popcorn thriller would be like criticizing Nicolas Cage's performance in a Bruckheimer movie. Yeah, we know they're both Academy Award winners and capable of much better, but look what they have to work with. Keanu Reeves, well, you can't really say too much about Keanu. I can't come down too hard on him: he will be forever cool in my eyes for his immortal roles as Ted "Theodore" Logan (in the "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures" movies) and Thomas "Neo" Anderson (in "The Matrix" and it's upcoming sequels). Although one would not expect anything Oscar caliber out of his performance here, he does make his character of a student-machinist-on-the run-from-the-government interesting. Although some would doubt his ability to successfully take charge of an action film, I would direct them to go back to the video store and rent a not-so-little movie called "Speed".

While you're still at that video store, I would recommend picking up some films that scream loudly from their video boxes "PRODUCED BY JERRY BRUCKHEIMER". Though Bruckheimer is infamous for his summer "popcorn" films with qualities similar to this film, the one thing he has never failed to do, in my opinion anyway, is bore the audience. Sure, his films rely in suspension of disbelief and the fact that Joe-Blow-Moviegoer isn't exactly the brightest candle in the chandelier and that they'll accept pretty much anything he throws at them. Hell, I even accept it when I'm in a good mood. But the fact is that he never bores us. That is the problem with "Chain Reaction". It's got all the implausibilites of a Bruckheimer movie with almost none of the unbridled joy I, as an audience member, get when I see a scene like Nicolas Cage chasing Sean Connery through downtown San Francisco in a Ferrari. The film drags in its set-up, throws us (as I've said before) practically the entire plot from "The Fugitive", and then makes a couple things go "BOOM" just to satisfy the action fans. For me, it's just not enough to make the two-hours worthwhile. Now, where did my copy of "The Rock" go. . .


"Chain Reaction" is presented in it's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is anamorphically enhanced for those of you with 16:9 widescreen televisions. The picture is great to look at on this one. Everything is crisp and clean, and the colors are perfect (i.e. nothing is oversaturated). There are very few film flecks visible and there was no pixellation that I could see. The black level seemed right on to me, also, so overall a very, very good transfer.


The DVD comes with the option of watching in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1. As I am not equipped with a DTS receiver, I will say to those with one to expect the same quality or better. The soundstage is good and wide on this one, enveloping the viewer. The surrounds, while not overused in a gimmicky fashion are good for front to back effects like a truck driving through, etc. They are also used well for ambience, such as nighttime city sounds, the echoing of a police megaphone, and Jerry Goldsmith's wonderful score. The .1 bass channel gets its due workout during two scenes in the film especially (you'll know what they are, believe me). All in all, a great sound presentation.


Well, the disc certainly ain't loaded. But it's not exactly empty either.

For starters, there are the Original Trailers and TV Spots:

Trailer A is presented in 1.33:1 Full Frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 and shows the film's age very well with many instances of film flecks and the like This one is less like a theatrical trailer and more like a TV spot. Trailer B, on the other hand, is presented in 2.35:1 Widescreen and Dolby Digital 2.0 and is more like a trailer that would be shown preceding another movie in the theater. Both of these, as is with most trailers, only showcase the films' best moments and nothing more.

Second, there are the Fox Flix Trailers. There are only trailers for other 20th Century Fox films available on DVD. There are three: "Chain Reaction," "Big Trouble In Little China," and "Unlawful Entry." All Are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, and "Chain Reaction" and "Unlawful Entry" are 2.35:1 Widescreen while "Big Trouble In Little China" is 1.85:1 Widescreen.


Overall, the film, in my opinion, is not worth buying, but should one be a fan of the genre, might possibly deserve a rent. The only saviors of this film are Morgan Freeman, of whom I will forever be a fan, and Jerry Goldsmith's score, which deserves to be in a much better film than this. Instead of purchasing this, I would recommend picking up director Andrew Davis's previous directorial effort, the infinitely better "The Fugitive". But if you absolutely must have "Chain Reaction", the price and quality of presentation are well worth justifying the purchase. If only the film were better. . .