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- Published on Amazon.com
"Conspiracy" is not a great action movie, even by DTV standards, because Val Kilmer is not an action hero. It also doesn't help that this is only the second film that director Adam Marcus has made in the fifteen years following his less-than-grand debut of Jason Goes to Hell. Lastly, it's unfortunate that the movie was only made to appease New Mexico's Film Investment Program, since such programs are prone to picking up the first offer that falls in their lap just for the sake of it, even if it's obviously only a half-there project like this is. Essentially, "Conspiracy" is a run-of-the-mill DTV movie that's built on the clichés of bigger films and features a strong-willed plot that takes too long to get exciting.
The story: ex-Marine, war veteran, and amputee "Spooky" MacPherson (Kilmer) is haunted by memories of the warzone even as he tries to build himself a life back home. At the urging of fellow vet Miguel Silva (Greg Serano, "Wildfire"), he heads down to New Mexico to work on Silva's ranch, but upon arriving, he finds only a growing border town run by the powerful businessman Rhodes (Gary Cole, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) and no trace of his friend. Upon his investigation, simple intimidation tactics by the corrupt town officials turn into a full-blown war on MacPherson as he comes closer and closer to realizing both the fate of his friend and Rhodes' conspiracy against immigrant workers.
I've heard this film compared to a similar movie about a handicapped war veteran of which I can't remember the name, but I personally find it more akin the Dolph Lundgren's DTV film Missionary Man, which was released a year earlier and dealt with similar issues: both movies feature a lone hero riding into a remote town to see a friend and uncovering widespread of oppression at the hands of an evil businessman aided by ruthless mercenaries. The biggest difference, however, is that in comparing Dolph Lundgren to the award-winning Val Kilmer, Lundgren gives the better dramatic performance. Kilmer really isn't in good shape: he's put on some weight since Deja Vu and doesn't look nearly as dashing as he once did; worse yet, his actual performance could've been done just as well with two photographs of him displaying expressions of furrowed constipation and open-mouthed daydreaming. The rest of the cast remains a mixed bag: Gary Cole outshines just about everyone as the two-dimensional bad guy that you love to hate, and female asset Jennifer Esposito ("Samantha Who?") starts off decent before descending dramatically when her character has to become hysterical. Greg Serano makes the most of his limited screentime, as does unlikely hero Jay Jablonski (Everybody Wants to Be Italian), but the rest of the cast consists mainly of no-name actors playing racist rednecks and that you want to see less of.
Regardless, since this is an action film, there should be some good stuff on that account to keep the picture afloat, right? Well, not really: the action doesn't really pick up until you're halfway into the movie, and once it gets there, it can largely be summed up in three circumstances: MacPhearson's Rambo-style escape from prison which turns into a meh-level car chase, a one-sided shootout, and then the climatic shootout/brawl at the end of the movie. While the escape features at least one innovative move in MacPhearson leaping against a car door to crush an attacker and the final fight is a decently-balanced encounter, there's not nearly enough exhilarating moments like these throughout to keep the average audience interested, making us need to fall back on the story. Personally, I don't mind seeing the plight of immigrant workers examined in their favor, but this film is sure to alienate many people for its thoroughly simplified and overdramatized approach to the whole immigration situation. Throw in the plot point of MacPhearson's inconvenient blackout spots never really leading to anything, and you've got a story that seems perfectly muddled.
In short, "Conspiracy" is a bottom-of-the-barrel piece as far as Kilmer's career is concerned, a lackluster action flick, and an unconvincing propaganda movie: not nearly a must-buy.