The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Chain Reaction

Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer

So bad it's bad


Neo can ride a bike faster than Jesus!

In order to show you that I’m serious about my desire to be the man on the Web for BMFCP (Bad Movies For Comedic Purposes), tonight I sat down with my wife, at her inspiration and request, I might add, to watch Chain Reaction, the 1996 “thriller” starring Morgan Freeman, and Keanu Reeves as a brilliant (!) scientist.

Now I should let all of you out there know that I should be biased toward this movie, since I was given a chance to be in it. That’s right, this movie was filmed in Chicago during my freshman year at Northwestern. I was a theater major, which naturally means that I was among a handful of students willing to do anything for the good of the “arts.” One day, we were told that they were filming a movie in the city, and they needed extras. Of course, we were all stoked. We were then told that, in order to be in it, we would be required to be in downtown Chicago from 9 p.m. until dawn, on a night in the middle of February. Anyone out there ever been to Chi-town in winter? Do the words 40 below zero mean anything? I turned down this opportunity, opting instead to keep my toes, and my guilt meter should have made watching this movie an exercise in beating myself up for missed opportunities.

Or, in this case, a warm sense deep in my heart that I kept my extremities, as opposed to not getting seen in a complete piece of shit movie. In brief, Keanu and the team successfully create cold fusion. He walks his hot British colleague home, as she’s drunk and her car won’t start. As he comes back for his bike, he sees bad guys doing bad things to his experiment. They have killed co-workers, and set the thing to blow up. He is able to escape the subsequent nuclear explosion by driving really really fast on his motorcycle, and can then stand up to observe how the blast destroyed eight city blocks. Naturally, he and the hot chick are framed for the explosion, and so they go on the run.


Dude, what do these twelve buttons do?

What follows is over an hour of chase scenes, where much like a Grisham hero(ine), a person completely unaccustomed to espionage and escape suddenly becomes a master of both. In this case, he outruns the Chicago police by running into the bowels of a bridge while it’s raised, gumming up the works, and slipping into a garbage truck while everyone is focused straight ahead of themselves. He then eludes the Wisconsin State Police running really really fast out of the observatory, then stealing their ice boat when the troopers who drove it all left it, and left it running. Then, while in a museum, he beats up a lot of baddies, eludes others by jumping on top of exhibits, then escapes detection by getting out of the building, and then “blending into the crowd.”

I must now take a moment to discuss this last escape further. It is truly the masterpiece of the film. You see, the action of the film takes place both in Washington, D.C., and in Chicago/Wisconsin. When Keanu and hottie escape on the ice boat, they send a secret message in a flower delivery to Morgan Freeman, who is in D.C. It is information as to where they will meet him … obviously in D.C. A couple of hours later, the three of them meet up in a museum. Now, this is a great plot idea, as D.C. is filled with museums. The only problem in this case is that the museum in question is without a doubt the Field Musem in Chicago. While Jill and I tried to figure out how and why they met in Chicago, and how Morgan Freeman got there so quickly, the heroic fight scene begins. Keanu throws a man into a prehistoric man exhibit, steals a bone, and whacks other baddies on the head with it. They then run directly into the airplane exhibit in the Museum of Science and Industry, which is miles and miles away from the Field Museum. The rest of the fight scene takes place there. Then as they run out, we hear one of the random cop characters sitting in a truck yell out “Hey! We just got word from D.C. of a disturbance at the Smithsonian!” (Actually, even though the actor said Smithsonian, the line was overdubbed very badly to say “Science Museum” instead. I guess the Smithsonian didn’t want their name in this piece. I wonder why.) So, they jumped between three different museums, in two different cities, in the span of a few minutes! This was a continuity error to end all continuity errors.

Back to the film. In that fight, Keanu learns the big twist that we have all learned a half-hour before, and don’t care about. He then continues his expert spying to make his way to the top-secret base, and sets a devious trap to foil the plots of the enemies. When he and hottie are left for dead, they escape THAT as well, and manage for the second time in the movie to outrun a nuclear blast, this time in an elevator. (In fact, even though they did suffer from getting covered with ash whilst escaping that blast, this was cured by the time the shot changed, with no time elapsing.)


This sucks worse than playing Easy Reader.


That’s it. Oh … the bad guy gets away in the end … and I can’t tell, but I think we’re supposed to feel good about it. The bad guy is Morgan Freeman. If this ruins the movie for you, then (1) You have not read this review and still think there’s a plot to speak of, and (2) You are a fucking idiot.

To rate this movie on my pre-stated two-tiered system of: shitty movies that are so bad they’re good (SMTASBTG), and shitty movies that are so shitty they go past being so bad they’re good, and are so bad they’re bad again (SMTASSTGPBSBTGAASBTBA), this one has to score a SMTASSTGPBSBTGAASBTBA. My jaw was gaping open in disbelief, and as such I was unable to formulate any good jokes with my mouth. Skip it.