Extreme Measures

Extreme Measures

****

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Heard of Extreme Measures? Nah, thought not. Pleasingly though, while a conspiracy-yarn with Hugh Grant funded by his then-partner Elizabeth Hurley sounds like a mis-cast vehicle (Nine Months meets ER? No, thanks), it's much better than you might expect. Honestly.

Truth be told, we never stray too far from the usual paranoia-thriller formula. While on the verge of a prestigious position at NYU, New York Doctor Guy Luthan (Grant) has a mysterious patient die on him without any explanation. Trying to find out what happened, the trail leads to world renowned neurosurgeon Dr Myrick (Gene Hackman) and the disappearances of homeless people. The deeper Guy digs, the more sinister things become.

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So, our hero is framed. On the run. Hunted by men with ambiguous motives. Trying to discover the truth. Unable to trust anyone. Yet director Michael Apted offers an impressive everyone-is-out-to-get-me vibe while keeping the tension consistently high and the atmosphere often claustrophobic. There isn't a massive amount of 'action' per say, but Apted's expertly-paced tale throbs with genuine suspense as the net progressively closes in on Guy.

What really raises it above similar genre efforts though are the thought-provoking central questions. If you only had one operating room, would you choose to save an injured cop with a family or a worse-injured junkie? Are individuals expendable for the greater good? And how does Hugh get such volume in his hair?

Indeed, the movie invites debate about how effective the medical profession is with Gene Hackman giving the point-of-view credibility, offering a convincing the-ends-justify-the-means argument ("three years with a rat to get to a dog, and after five years if I’m lucky maybe I could work on a chimp. We have to move faster than that”) that lesser actors just couldn't sell. As for the ending, it's a chilling full-stop.

Most viewers write off Hugh Grant as a bumbling, one-trick English-gent pony, but here he's proves he's more than just a charming rom-com lead. Managing to instil Guy with his trademark dry-wit yet playing it utterly straight as the role demands, Grant is surprisingly up to the task and then some. Elsewhere, there's decent support from the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker (confidant Nurse), David Morse (suspicious agent #1) and Bill Nunn (suspicious agent #2).

Extreme Measures is a surprisingly effective and tension-packed thriller... and not a wedding in sight.

Reviewed on: 25 May 2010
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A surgeon begins to suspect one of his eminent colleagues may be in the business of harming rather than healing people.
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