Certain times throughout recent cinematic history, we have been asked to suspend disbelief - a good example of this is 1996's "Chain Reaction", a film where the otherwise mellow dude action Keanu Reeves plays a scientist. "Chain" is the second film after director Andrew Davis brought us "The Fugitive" in 1994 - although certainly not one of the worst thrillers in recent years, the film tends to stick in that middle ground that would make it more suitable for watching on cable, or for renting on this new DVD from Fox.
Anyways, Reeves plays Eddie Kasalivich, a bright lab technician who is working with a group of scientists on a project to develop energy that is pollution-free - getting enough energy to power a city for a week from a glass of water. The facts behind how this is done is not exactly explained to the fullest detail, but I wouldn't exactly expect this from an action movie.
Although this discovery should thrill, the results are quite otherwise. Once their discovery is found out, their lab is blown up (along with 8 city blocks around it). Eddie went back to the lab right before the incident, so he (along with fellow scientist Lily Sinclair(Rachel Weisz of "The Mummy") are framed. Looking over the situation is Paul Shannon (Morgan Freeman), a secretive man who works for "The Foundation" and could either be helping the situation, or the villian. Seeking out everyone is Inspector Ford (Fred Ward) and his team.
All of the science thrown about and who's after who and what may appear somewhat complicated at first glance, but what the film is really about is staging nicely done chase sequences, which come at a fairly rapid pace, but strangely aren't that memorable. The performances aren't bad though - especially Freeman. Freeman is probably the best actor today at taking less than stellar material and really adding a dose of intelligence and class to the proceedings. Reeves has been better, and Weisz doesn't have a great deal to do.
Overall, "Chain Reaction" isn't a bad film - it just stays rather average and generic while the talent involved could have taken the film further. A rental.
VIDEO: This is a marvelous anamorphic transfer from Fox in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Sharpness and detail are excellent - there are a few little instances in interiors where the film seemed slightly soft, but the majority of the film looked so well-defined that it could be often considered "film-like" in appearance.
Few flaws made themselves known throughout the movie. A tiny bit of edge enhancement and a very minor trace or two of pixelation appeared, but these problems were hardly noticable. The print used is crystal clear, with only a couple of minimal speckles keeping this from being flawless.
Colors appeared crisp and well-rendered. The film does have a rather bleak color scheme, but brighter colors occasionally appeared, and I didn't find any flaws to the film's color presentation. Flesh tones appeared natural and accurate, and black level is solid. Fox has done some wonderful work lately, but this is a particularly top-notch effort from the studio. Layer change is visible at 55:54.
SOUND: The film is presented here in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio versions. Although the film does not provide a consistent assault on the audio front, there are a couple of scenes throughout the movie that are just about demo worthy, most notably a massive nighttime explosion that wipes out about 8 city blocks around one of the main locations of the movie (nice special effects in this sequence as well, by the way). This scene provides heavy, deep bass and agressive use of the surrounds for a very exciting experience.
"Chain Reaction" isn't one of those films that only puts audio to use during the film's intense moments. I was pleased to hear that even during some of the quieter exterior scenes there was very good use of ambient sounds. Overall, surrounds contributed nicely to the proceedings, and I thought their use was consistent and appropriate. During a few of the most intense action scenes in the film, bass kicked in very nicely.
The exciting Jerry Goldsmith score really gets a workout throughout the film; it really does a nice job of enveloping the viewer without getting in the way of the sound effects and all of the other sounds that are present in an action film like this one. Dialogue remained natural and clear sounding throughout the picture. All in all, although "Chain Reaction" isn't the most outstanding or aggressive sound presentation I've had the pleasure of listening to in the past few months, I did find it to be an audio experience that really added a good deal of excitement to the movie and had me engaged when I'm not sure if I would have been otherwise with this film. I'm also somewhat impressed because this is now a 5 year old picture.
Attempting to compare the two versions, I found the DTS presentation noticably more enjoyable. The audio felt more enveloping, clearer and more detailed.
MENUS:: Menus are basic with no animation, and have a sort of slick, technology-looking background.
EXTRAS: A trailer and two TV spots. Also: Trailers for other Fox releases: "Point Break", "Unlawful Entry" and "Big Trouble In Little China".
Final Thoughts: "Chain Reaction" remains a rather middle-of-the-road thriller with some good chase sequences, but not a great deal else. Fox provides a very good DVD, though - both image and audio quality are strong and I definitely hope that Fox will release more waves of DTS/DD catalog titles. If you're a fan of the film, you'll likely find this DVD quite satisfying. This DVD is also at a lower price point - retailing at $22.99, but will likely be able to be found cheaper at stores.
The Film **
Video 94/A = (376/400 possible points)
Audio: 92/A = (368/400 possible points)
Extras: 70/C- = (210/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C- = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 82/B = (243/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: **
DVD GRADE: B