Picks and Pans Review: Chain Reaction

updated 08/12/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/12/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Keanu Reeves, Morgan Freeman

You know that fall is coming when summer movies all begin to blend together. Was that flying truck in Twister or Independence Day or both? A fireball flamed through a tunnel in The Rock, or was it in Fled? Well, flying trucks, fireballs and, oh yes, a unique element, an iceboat-helicopter chase, are all crammed into Chain Reaction, but they never add up to more than a run-of-the-reactor thriller.

Despite all the stunts and special effects, Chain Reaction's plot, character development and dialogue are as barren as the snowy winter landscapes that pervade the movie. Chalk one up in the miss column for director Andrew Davis, who turned 1993's The Fugitive into such a snappy and tense piece of work. In Chain, Reeves plays a machinist at a University of Chicago lab who helps scientists transform water into hydrogen, a discovery that could provide cheap, unlimited power. Before you can say Eureka! bad guys steal the technology, blow up the lab and frame Reeves and the comeliest of the physicists (Rachel Weisz, showing little of the spark she had in Stealing Beauty), sending these two off and running. Call in the fireballs.

Reeves is his usual stolid self, possibly even more stolid here because he spends the entire movie clad in slouchy flannel overshirts and lumpy winter parkas. He has zero chemistry with Weisz—it doesn't help that the two look like siblings sporting identical shaggy brunet dos. Freeman, playing a powerful scientist-politician, is here to lend class to the movie, and he does, but not enough. (PG-13)

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