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Film review: Shadow Conspiracy

By-the-numbers movie seems a cross of `Condor,' `Terminator,' `Toy Story.'

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 4 1997 12:00 a.m. MST

Believe it or not, "Shadow Conspiracy" is sort of "Three Days of the Condor" crossed with "The Terminator." And maybe "Toy Story."

Charlie Sheen is a presidential aide on the run when he accidentally stumbles upon a government conspiracy. Framed for murder and with only his ex-girlfriend, an investigative reporter (Linda Hamilton), at his side, Sheen is determined to find out who the bad guys are in the president's Cabinet and what evil thing they plan to do.

This is one of those by-the-numbers Hollywood thrillers that is at once simple-minded and overly complex. The complexities are most often in the form of minute details, which are thrown out by the filmmakers simply to confuse the audience. As a result — they hope — we won't notice little details like lack of character development, contradictory motivations and idiotic plotting.

No such luck here.

The film begins in much the same way as "Three Days of the Condor," as a room full of researchers is wiped out by an assassin, and only one gets away. In this case, however, the person who gets away (Theodore Bikel) isn't the lead character — he's the guy who informs the main character of the conspiracy.

Armed with little information, Sheen is required to do a Hitchcock — to become an innocent man on the run who must figure out the plot in order to save the day.

The rest of the film is made up almost entirely of one action scene after another — car chases, foot chases, innocent bystanders being killed as Sheen is pursued, etc. There isn't much in the way of exposition here.

The "Terminator" element arrives early as we see the film's primary assassin, an unnamed mute character played by Stephen Lang. And though no one ever says so, he could be an android, since he is single-minded in his pursuit, kills loads of innocent people in broad daylight and marches along in stiff, robot fashion. (He also chases Linda Hamilton late in the film, another "Terminator" connection.)

The "Toy Story" aspect comes into play as we see Lang firing a miniature machine gun at toy action figures, something that later is worked into the ridiculous climactic shootout.

The leader of the bad guys isn't hard to figure out, and none of the performances are particularly convincing. And the spot-the-star mentality (Sam Waterston as the president and Ben Gazzara as an adviser are particularly underused) doesn't help.

Furthermore, the audience is guaranteed to laugh at all the wrong moments.

"Shadow Conspiracy" is rated R for considerable violence, gore, profanity and vulgarity.

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