I don't know who asked for it, but the moment has arrived: Val Kilmer is now officially Steven Seagal. "Conspiracy" is classic low-budget tripe, typically reserved for a down-on-their-luck action star with little to no interest in script quality. Perhaps the Seagals and Van Dammes of the world were too busy, so enter Val Kilmer, and he's going to tear your nuts clean off.
Iraq war vet MacPherson (Val Kilmer) is asked by a combat friend to meet him at a small border town in Arizona to discuss recent troubles. MacPherson, scarred from his experience, reluctantly agrees, and after the long bus journey, arrives to find an old west-style community, run by the reptilian Rhodes (Gary Cole). With help from a concerned local (Jennifer Esposito), MacPherson learns the terrible truth behind the town's construction, leaving him no other option but to take the law into his own hands and declare war on Rhodes and his force of corrupt cops.
"Conspiracy" is a truly ridiculous film. Yet, the casting of Kilmer and the occasional bit of surprise that manages to sneak out of the script keeps this DTV effort strangely compelling. Constructed as a western, the picture plays very broadly with images of redneck brutality, humbled heroism, and various offerings of violence. I can't imagine this is the picture director Adam Marcus ("Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday") set out to make when he first envisioned his movie, but I was impressed with the filmmaker's tenacity and ambition to make a rough-n-ready revenge film absolutely devoid of a noticeable budget.
Would you believe "Conspiracy" is really about Dick Cheney? The screenplay wants to butch up to Charles Bronson standards, but at the heart of this absurd creation sleeps a commentary on Halliburton (called "Halicorp" in the picture) and the facade of patriotism in America. Rhodes isn't just a greedy madman; he also abuses angelic Mexican illegals, funds war efforts to keep his honey pot overflowing, and punches women (booooooo!). "Conspiracy" isn't shy drawing parallels toward Cheneyesque cycles of corruption, and a light dusting of this material is worrisome, but digestible. However, the film is quick to sprint into preach mode, absent the level of intelligence required to make it all mean something more than embarrassed giggles and eye-rolls.
Call me weird, but I don't think political posturing can be taken seriously in a picture that contains a snap zoom reveal of prosthetic leg and a hero who promptly barfs chili on the bad guy at the first sign of trouble.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), "Conspiracy" is a muddy viewing experience, particularly in the opening Iraq combat sequences. Detail is a mess, but once the story switches over to brightly-lit New Mexico locations, matters improve substantially.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix offers nothing truly robust to the presentation, only contributing the bare minimum of dimension and kick, further revealing the limited resources made available to this production.
None, but the DVD has a gang of trailers, including "The Cleaner," "Thunderheart," "Revolver," "Pistol Whipped," "We Own the Night," "Missionary Man," Southland Tales," "Black Water," "April Fool's Day," and "Bats: Human Harvest."
The entertainment value of "Conspiracy" boils down to Val Kilmer and his lethargic demeanor. I refuse to crack wise about his recent weight gain, but one can easily spot a slowing of response from the actor, or perhaps it's his boredom with the script. Kilmer doesn't put in much of an effort here, but that's more than what's typically offered to a frayed actioner like this.
Kilmer pulls off iced rage well, and when MacPherson drinks from the crazy cup for the final act showdown, it's entertaining to watch the lumpy actor work through the junior-high John Woo choreography, while Marcus attempts unsuccessfully to make it all feel slick and expensive. "Conspiracy" doesn't have anything to offer the audience outside of a few good twists and a doughy Val Kilmer stomping around, but that's almost enough to make the experience watching it worth the trouble.
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