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" desperate measures " is a generic title for a film that's beyond generic .
it's also a depressing waste of talent , with the solid team of michael keaton and andy garcia unthankfully thrown thankless lead roles , not to mention once-cool director barbet schroeder sadly continuing his string of not-cool flicks -- this thriller is more " before and after " than " reversal of fortune . "
the movie is a big disappointment , and yet it's somewhat easy to see what motivated such big names to attach themselves to it -- the premise is both promising and intriguing .
too bad the execution's all wrong , though , because the set-up of " desperate measures " boasts some rather enticing elements that deserve to be put to far better use .
san francisco cop frank connor ( garcia ) is a single parent with a troubling dilemma -- his son matt ( joseph cross ) is stricken with cancer which only a bone marrow transplant can push into remission .
even worse , the only compatible donor is violent sociopath peter mccabe ( michael keaton ) , currently serving a life sentence for multiple murders and other various crimes against society .
connor tries his best to convince mccabe to go along with the surgery ; he's at first reluctant , but reconsiders after he realizes he can plan his escape at the hospital .
when he does make a run for it , connor offers close pursuit , but for different reasons than his superiors ( including the crusty brian cox ) -- they want to take mccabe down , while connor needs to keep him alive , or all hope is lost for his little boy .
one misstep " desperate measures " makes is in its underdevelopment of matt's illness .
what's needed are more details as to exactly why mccabe is the only bone marrow match that works ; there would seem to be other possible contenders somewhere in the country , and thus many of the ways that connor endangers the lives of himself and those around him by attempting to keep mccabe alive are just a little too hard to swallow .
take , for example , a scene where mccabe is trying to make a getaway by climbing over an elevated passage tunnel connecting two sections of the hospital .
the police have their spotlight and guns aimed right on him , and what does connor do ?
he shoots the spotlight out so that mccabe can continue his flight .
connor knows very well what dangerous deeds this guy is capable of , and yet never seems to think that mccabe will eventually get to and try to harm his son .
whatever .
to be fair , though , the lack of story background is the least of the movie's problems .
first and foremost is how cheaply " desperate measures " trades the potential of it's opening scenes for the routine action ballistics of its final hour .
once mccabe escapes , the film becomes the fugitive in reverse and with no thrills .
there are countless scenes where the good guys catch up to keaton only to have him grab a hostage and get away .
also , the movie is so intent on giving you a hoot-inducing , lip-smacking villain ( the ads have compared peter mccabe to hannibal lechter , natch ) that it completely casts garcia's frank connor by the dullsville wayside ; " desperate measures " appears to like its antagonist so much more than its protagonist , and the movie's head-scratcher of a send-off confirms this .
there is some good to be found amongst this mess , particularly in the acting department .
cast against type , michael keaton's understated menace is highly effective .
although he's not given much believable to work with , andy garcia plays off a taut emotional chord .
joseph cross , as garicia's ailing son , is surprisingly unsentimental , and marcia gay harden lends solid support as a doctor who becomes a major player in the unfolding chaos .
this cast does its best to camouflage the sorry plot as it chugs towards an inevitably happy ending , but most is lost .
it goes without saying that " desperate measures " needs an operation of its very own .