Reviewed by: Cheryl Sneeringer
At first glance, Jerry Fletcher (Mel Gibson) seems to be just a harmless, comical, social misfit who earns a modest living as a taxi driver and spends his free time weaving far-fetched theories of wide-ranging government conspiracies to manipulate the common people or to assassinate their leaders. He scours newspapers for events that support his theories, and he publishes a newsletter that documents his findings. In addition to his obsession with conspiracies, Jerry is also obsessed with a lovely young attorney at the Justice Department, Alice Sutton (Julia Roberts). At night he sits in his cab outside her apartment and watches as she exercises on her treadmill. At times he goes to her office to tell her of his conspiracy theories, but his thinking is so disjointed that she cannot take him seriously.
Then one day, several men in dark suits kidnap Jerry, and take him to the basement of a mental hospital, where he is strapped to a wheelchair and tortured by a sinister man named Dr. Jonas (Patrick Stewart). Jonas keeps asking, “Who knows what we know, Jerry?” Terrified (literally) out of his wits, Jerry stammers, “What is it that we know?” From this point on, the movie shifts from light comedy to a deadly serious action picture. After a humorous and harrowing escape, Jerry is on the run, with various arms of government trying to track him down or kill him. The only person he will trust is Alice, but she can’t be sure that she should trust him. Is Jerry an endearing simpleton, a dangerous psychotic, or an unfeeling assassin?
The film is full of plot twists and unforeseen developments that keep you guessing every minute. I found the movie to be very enjoyable—suspenseful, engrossing, and complex. When the movie is over, however, and all the secrets are exposed, it is clear that there were major flaws in the logic of the plot. Nevertheless, I do recommend this movie. It contained some particularly clever ideas. I particularly enjoyed Jerry’s ingenuity in the design of his escape route from his apartment and the surprising significance of his obsession with buying copies of The Catcher in the Rye. Although the plot of “Conspiracy Theory” won’t hold up to careful scrutiny, nevertheless the film was fun for the ride.
There are a handful of instances of bad language in this movie, but no sex or nudity. The movie is properly rated R, however, due to the horror and intensity of the torture scene, and one particularly grisly shooting. This film is not suitable for children.
Year of Release—1997