There can be a fine line between a movie paying homage to another film, or simply being a shameless rip-off worthy of a copyright infringement lawsuit. Sometimes the difference between the two is nothing more than the talent exhibited behind the camera, and the audience's willingness to excuse a rip-off and accept it as homage. Unfortunately for director Adam Marcus, whatever negligible talent he may convey behind the camera, it is not enough to make up for the fact that his "homage" to John Sturges' seminal 1955 film Bad Day at Black Rock is really a pathetic rip-off; so much so that Marcus and co-writer Debra Sullivan should be sued, and the names of Black Rock's original writers, Mildred Kaufman, Don McGuire and Howard Breslin, should be added to the credits of Conspiracy.
Val Kilmer--looking like he's been getting diet and exercise tips from Steven Seagal--stars a "Spook" MacPherson, a battle-scared veteran of the War in Iraq. In the film's first 15 minutes (which are the only minutes that seemingly have any originality), MacPherson is introduced as a severely disturbed vet suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, who owes his life to fellow Marine Miguel Silva (Greg Serano). A Mexican immigrant who joined the Marines to get his citizenship, Silva wants MacPherson to join him in Arizona. When MacPherson arrives, Silva is nowhere to be found, no one knows who he is--or at least won't admit they know him--and the unfriendly locals try to run our hero out of town. But MacPherson refuses to simply leave and forget about his friend, setting him up for a confrontation with the evil land developer (Gary Cole) who runs the small town like a racist plantation owner.
For anyone who has seen Bad Day at Black Rock, all of this will sound familiar, because this is the exact same plot. The only difference is that Black Rock starred Spencer Tracy as John J. Macreedy, a wounded World War II vet is looking for the father of a fellow soldier. In Bad Day at Black Rock, the man Macreedy is looking for is Japanese, allowing the film to address the anti-Japanese sentiments during and after World War II. Conspiracy replaces those fears with issues about immigration, and Spencer Tracy's paralyzed arm is replaced by Val Kilmer's prosthetic leg, which is revealed in one of the film's only surprise moments of originality (sorry to spoil that one for you).
In all fairness to Adam Marcus, his hackneyed, devoid-of-merit, steaming-pile-of-crap film does manage to not completely rip-off Bad Day at Black Rock, which is evident in parts of the second and third act, when the film steals from First Blood, Billy Jack, and Best of the Best II.
The audacity of Marcus and his co-writer Sullivan is mind-boggling. It's not enough that Marcus--whose previous credits include Jason Goes to Hell--is a mediocre filmmaker at best, but that any one director would be so presumptuous as to believe they could get away with this level of cinematic plagiarism is insulting. Sure, the average filmgoer may be cinematically illiterate, but there are enough people out there who have seen Bad Day at Black Rock that someone just has to call bullshit. (Of course, whoever signed this film at Sony, and whoever financed it, needs to be pimp-slapped for being so stupid they didn't recognized the lawsuit-worthy extent of Marcus and Sullivan's lack of originality.)
To say I hated Conspiracy would be a gross understatement. I found this film to be an insulting affront to the creative process of people far more talented than Marcus, who languish in obscurity simply because they have the integrity to not steal from someone else, and then try to pass off the ideas of another as their own. And while I know that plenty of other films and filmmakers have taken "inspiration" for past works, Conspiracy is something different. If you were to take out every element of this film that was directly from Bad Day at Black Rock, you would not even have a film left, just a few random scenes with no story to hang on to.
Conspiracy is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture transfer is good. The movie sucks.
Conspiracy is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital. The sound transfer is good, and audio levels are acceptable. The film, however, sucks.
There are no bonus materials. And the film sucks.
This film sucks.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]