Mercury Rising

That one of the working titles for this Bruce Willis action vehicle was Mercury Falling pretty much says it all. There's such a lack of vision behind Mercury Rising that the title could have it going in either direction and it would still end up in the same familiar place. Willis is a tough-as-nails FBI agent who plays by his own rules. Not content to let the dust settle on a poorly handled Waco/Ruby Ridge-style bloodbath, Willis is demoted to grunt work, a move that eventually leads him to imperiled child Miko Hughes (Full House, Zeus And Roxanne). Autistic in a way that's convenient to the plot, Hughes has cracked a top-secret government code printed in a puzzle magazine, a fact that leads evil government bureaucrat Alec Baldwin to attempt to kill him. If you've ever felt uncomfortable about the way movies put children in jeopardy for the sake of thrills, here's a whole film dedicated to variations on just that exploitative device, with a middle section consisting of little more than Willis and a constantly screaming Hughes trapped in tight spaces with evil gunmen hot on their trail. Baldwin adds tongue-in-cheek punch to his few scenes, and director Harold Becker keeps things moving along with yeoman-like efficiency. But there's not a whole lot to like here, and what there is—namely, fast-paced, well-choreographed action and the presence of the still strangely likable Willis—is readily available in better forms elsewhere.

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