Yesterday's testimony by Donald Rumsfeld showed that we live in the world where governments are more-or-less resigned to the fact that their even most embarrassing and damaging secrets can't be kept from the public. In today's world of Internet and digital cameras it is getting increasingly difficult to imagine cabals that are powerful and secret at the same time. That also means that the conspiracy theories and films based on them are slowly but inevitably becoming thing of a past. And, at least judging by Shadow Conspiracy, 1997 thriller directed by George Pan Costmatos, that disappearance isn't something that the audiences should be particularly upset about.
Protagonist of the film is Bobby Bishop (played by Charlie Sheen), one of the most loyal and competent advisors to the President of United States (played by Sam Waterston). Bishop's speciality is getting his too idealistic and politically inexperienced boss from trouble. Bishop himself will get in trouble after being contacted by his old friend Professor Yuri Pochenko (played by Theodore Bikel). Old man tries to warn Bishop about secret cabal within the highest circle of government. Bishop starts to believe him after Pochenko gets killed by menacing looking and apparently unstoppable assassin (played by Stephen Lang). Bishop's attempts to contact Jacob Conrad (played by Donald Sutherland), his friend and White House chief of staff, only lead to more bloodshed. Convinced that someone within the government wants him dead, Bishop seeks help from Amanda Givens (played by Linda Hamilton), his former girlfriend and reporter who once wrote about secret government within the government.
According to film's producers, character of Bobby Bishop was inspired by the real life figure of George Stephanopoulos, one of Clinton's top aides (and many could argue that the fictional character of President represents idealised version of Clinton). That is probably the only connection between Shadow Conspiracy and real life, because Charlie Sheen is anything but convincing in his role of top Washington operator. He also lack chemistry with Linda Hamilton, who didn't put much effort in playing Washington reporter. But the film's biggest problem is in its laughable and, sadly, all-too-familiar Hollywood depiction of government conspiracies as public spectacle. Just like in many similar films, secret cabals operate in the way that in real life would result with their activities being anything but secret. In Shadow Conspiracy this happens in the form of easily noticeable and recognisable assassin that eliminates problematic people in broad daylight. The film also features one of the most ridiculous methods of assassination of top government officials. At times it seems that Shadow Conspiracy had potential to be a parody of itself, but Costmatos and his scriptwriters kept the serious tone until the very end. Just like many films of the genre made in 1990s, Shadow Conspiracy was easily overshadowed by real life White House scandals - events more prosaic and at the same time more entertaining than anything authors of this film have put on the screen.
RATING: 2/10 (-)
(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.films.reviews on May 11th 2004)
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