Medicine Man (1992)

16 May

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Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

How could John McTiernan, the director of “Predator” and “Die Hard,” have made a film that was so unbelievably boring? It’d be one thing if “Medicine Man” was dumb and witless, which it is (don’t get me wrong). But “Medicine Man” is really an endurance exam, with the questions being: How long can I endure a bad actress and a practical “king-of-cool” actor constantly bantering with one another? How long can I endure a story that is all tell and no show? How long can I stay awake?

Man, did I hate this movie. At least with most bad movies, there is at least something interesting to keep you watching and hoping something good will ultimately come of it. But this is just much ado about nothing.

Lorraine Bracco stars as a Bronx scientist who talks tough and takes no nonsense. Sean Connery is an eccentric researcher who has been living in the Amazon rainforests for about six years, studying jungle potions and sickness cures. Bracco is out there because the organization she works for (which is funding his experiments) wants to know what he’s doing out here in the jungle with Indian natives. What she discovers is that Connery has actually found a cure for cancer. But because he’s running low on it, having experimented on it too much, he and Bracco must trek across the jungle to get to a place where a lot of this cure can be found. But they must hurry, as the place is about to be bulldozed.

Now to be fair, the look of the film is first-rate. You do get a sense that you’re there in the Amazon rainforest, hiking along with these characters. But when there’s nothing substantial in the dialogue or characterization, and also when there’s hardly any action to be found here, do you really want to stay here for about an hour and 40 minutes?

There’s also a nice scene involving a rope-and-pulley setup that allows Connery and Bracco to make their ways up to the treetops. From there, they can get a good view of the land, and so do we.

But then it’s back to the ground, where our main characters are. Sean Connery is sometimes known for making anything watchable, and while he does do a decent job here, he’s not enough to save the movie from its overlong, boring dialogue scenes that try to whimsically entrance us with the joys and mysteries of nature and a non-too-subtle environmental message. Half of the time, I couldn’t keep up with what was going on, and ultimately I didn’t care.

I’m sure Lorraine Bracco can deliver a fine performance, given the right director (see her work in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”). But it’s obvious that this actress has a very limited acting range, and that’s clearly shown here. Bracco is teeth-grindingly awful here. She’s never convincing, she’s stilted in her line deliveries, and she never shuts up. And all her character does is complain, even when she shouldn’t. I get that her character is liberated, and Connery is supposed to ease her into some sort of romantic relationship, but this is just too much. Also, I didn’t buy any of the “chemistry” that supposedly was brought upon by Connery and Bracco together—they’re equally boring here. All they do is banter, banter, banter. Here’s a sample exchange, upon first encountering each other: “I’m not a girl!” “The hell you’re not!” “I’m your research assistant!” “The hell you are!” And it’s all downhill from there. “Romancing the Stone,” this is not. It’d be one thing if this was actually trying to be a “Tarzan” picture; it’d at least be fun. But instead, “Medicine Man” is just a bore.

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