With a wide ranging cast of recognizable faces, loads of action, tons of chases, and a twisting plot, what could possibly go wrong with Chain Reaction? Everything. This is a movie trying to be way more intelligent than it actually is.
In this 1996 outing from director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive), Keanu Reeves stars as a machinist working on a way to produce clean energy to protect the environment. Along with his team, he finds the solution in water, and when the plant blows up, Reeves' character is framed. What follows is a confusing, jumbled mess filled with terrible dialogue and hammy acting from otherwise solid actors.
Rachel Weisz co-stars as Reeves' female companion as they’re chased down by the FBI and a secondary mysterious group whose intentions are never clear. Morgan Freeman is the head of, well, something to do with all of this, but flips his allegiances so many times you’ll have no idea why he ends up where he does.
The script is pushed aside for much of the film to make way for numerous chase sequences. Some are impressive, including one shot right in the middle of Chicago on a drawbridge. Others are marred by miserable special effects. The explosion of the research plant at the beginning of the film is downright terrible whenever it tries to show Reeves in danger from the coming fire and smoke. It takes away from the intensity and danger of the scene.
Chain Reaction wants to be an intelligent thriller. It slips in some plot twists to surprise audiences, and it does. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take the time to build the characters to make those twists worthwhile, choosing instead to throw out yet another long chase sequence long after they’ve worn out their welcome.
Chain Reaction runs the gamut of Blu-ray video, both on the high and low ends. Sadly, the majority of the time is spent on the low. This is a largely grainy, dirty print. Slight edge enhancement is noticeable throughout, and compression artifacts rear their ugly head during a short sequence drenched in bright reds. Strong color, rich contrast, and overall sharp tone are definite benefits over the DVD.
Delivering on all counts, the DTS-HD audio track is loaded. Explosions deliver incredible bass with wonderful clarity. The surrounds are active during non-action scenes (and of course accurate during the various chases), with helicopters circling the sound field or cars rushing through front to back. Dialogue is nicely mixed even during quieter scenes.
The only extras are a fun running trivia track and some trailers.
Josh Friedman wrote the original script entitled Dead Drop. It was a vastly different film, and didn’t even have Rachel Weisz’s character. By the time everything was finalized, only one line of dialogue remained from the original Friedman work.