Chain Reaction (1996)
February 5, 2024 11:32 AM - Subscribe

Two researchers in a green alternative energy project are put on the run when they are framed for murder and treason.

At a Chicago university, a research team that includes brilliant Eddie Kasalivich (Keanu Reeves) experiences a breakthrough: a stable form of fusion that may lead to a waste-free energy source. However, Dr. Paul Shannon (Morgan Freeman) has ties to a private company that wants to exploit the technology, so Kasalivich and Dr. Lily Sinclair (Rachel Weisz) are framed for murder, and the fusion device is stolen. On the run from the FBI, they must recover the technology and exonerate themselves.

Edward Guthmann: With the Oscar-nominated "Fugitive," Davis created a reputation as the thinking man's action director. "Chain Reaction," although slighter and less plausible than that film, is certainly its equal in terms of suspense and the execution of elaborate action set pieces.

Take the first chase, for example: Freshly framed, Reeves dashes from cops and the FBI through downtown Chicago, sprints up the double-decker Michigan Avenue Bridge as it opens over the icy Chicago River and then jumps from one level of the bridge to the next.

Barbara Shulgasser: The only scene that might engage your interest for a moment or two involves Eddie escaping from the Chicago police by rolling around on a raised bridge. Not that Davis makes it clear what is going on, but seeing the mammoth bridge machinery up close is kind of fascinating, if you don't happen to be doing anything else.

Apart from all that, "Chain Reaction" is one explosion after another, none of which seem to advance the . . . uh . . . plot. But, of course, in a movie this lead-footed you spend more time wondering what the filmmakers were thinking, or if they were thinking, than about the few plot-like fragments that do present themselves now and then.

Sarah Cartland: It’s about two very attractive people running away hand in hand from ugly people in the snow, I mean a scientific team discovering how to produce clean energy from water. But beyond that I have to say for most of it I had no clue what was going on.

Morgan Freeman is in it, playing scientific project head Paul Shannon, and I was never quite sure if he was a good guy or a bad guy. I’m not sure if he even knew actually.

Keanu Reeves looks massive as he’s wearing one of those vast 90s leather jackets which is far too big for him throughout the whole movie, plus it’s freezing so they’re all in a million scarves and about 85 sweaters.

posted by Carillon (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I admit I have a soft spot for this movie, but I was shocked at how negative the rotten tomatoes score was. It's really not that bad. The inevitable comparison is to the Fugitive, and of course it doesn't hold up compared to that, but overall it is competently made and looks good. As a chase movie they are pretty much always on the run or movie, there's no extended lag time or anything. I even liked the split villainy of Freeman and Cox, you do understand Shannon's reluctance to kill even as he's also the bad guy.
posted by Carillon at 11:34 AM on February 5

Saw the trailer for this in a theater that had its projector maladjusted so the image dropped off both sides of the screen.

For that reason, this movie will always live in my heart as HAIN REACTIO.
posted by Naberius at 11:42 AM on February 5 [11 favorites]

Also, this is the movie that, along with the Val Kilmer version of The Saint, inspired my longstanding dream of giving Keanu Reeves and Elisabeth Shue identical super-advanced physics labs and taking bets on which one of them cracks cold fusion first.
posted by Naberius at 12:01 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]

HAIN REACTIO is an awesome name for a character from a 90s cyberpunk story.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:08 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]

Carillon, I enjoy how your posts tend to go in phases. Feels like you're sort of filling in the 1992-2002 action movie canon now.

Can we make requests? How about In the Line of Fire? Backdraft?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:51 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]

Thanks for reviewing these half-remembered 90s action movies everyone. I now realize that in my head, Chain Reaction had sort of merged with The Saint, and Blown Away with Backdraft.

Crisis averted!

NB: I actually remember The Saint well, because (IIRC) it's pretty awesome.
posted by Alex404 at 1:14 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]

Okay, turns out people do not, in general, remember The Saint with Val Kilmer as positively as I do. My teenage self thought it was great - and will continue to do so.
posted by Alex404 at 1:19 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]

Carillon, I enjoy how your posts tend to go in phases. Feels like you're sort of filling in the 1992-2002 action movie canon now.

Can we make requests? How about
In the Line of Fire? Backdraft?

I get a bee in my bonnet and want to fill in and talk about these movies! It's only as I'm going through posting all these do I realize how many films I watched growing up.

But yes! Please do, if I haven't seen it I'll try and watch it to post, heck that's how I ended up seeing New Jack City for the first time, because you asked for it.
posted by Carillon at 11:35 PM on February 5

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