Extreme Measures starts well enough. The camera sweeps across a darkening New York cityscape and comes to rest in front of a large metal door set into the wall of a dingy alleyway. Suddenly the door bursts open and two naked men run scared and stumbling into the street. Grabbing scraps of dirty plastic sheeting to cover themselves, they hide out in a construction site, ducking behind a fence to avoid a car that's hunting them. Questions zip through your mind - questions that you assume won't be answered until 15 minutes from the end.
But no. Within the first half-hour, all suspense has been punctured. Not only do you find out who the two men are, and why they and their jiggly testicles are galloping through New York, but you learn exactly who's chasing them and why. Worse still, like a flabby episode of Columbo, you get to know whodunnit right at the start of the film.
So maybe it's a Chain Reaction hot-pursuit affair? A sweaty actioner about innocence on the run, with shooting and dramatic set-pieces? No, Extreme Measures doesn't qualify as an out-and-out action movie either: the chases are short and pedestrian, the gunplay is accidental and there's a body count of precisely six. Grant, who plays another floppy-haired, golden-hearted Brit, may be good at running around a crowded ER, shouting `Stat!' and giving people 400cc of live-saving drugs ending in "edrine", but his foppish frame is about as suited to action as Zebedee is to Premier League football. It's a performance that ranges from looking confused to looking busy to looking confused again. And, as for weaponry, Hugh holds a gun like he's trying on blouses in the Big Girls section of BHS.
It's difficult to know exactly what sort of celluloid creature this is. Michael Apted directs the lacklustre script competently enough, but the supporting cast, which includes Gene Hackman, is largely wasted. The film's main problem is that you know what's going on and what's going to go on; another irritation is that doesn't explore a single moral dilemma fully. Though Extreme Measures is a much better movie than the dire Nine Months, Hugh Grant is clearly still struggling to sell his bumbling Englishman persona to the American film-goer. Another flatliner like this, and he'll be in real trouble...
Soft and long, Extreme Measures combines a smidgeon of suspense with a dribble of action, but doesn't convince with either. Since the script gives away the plot at the beginning of the film, Sarah Jessica Parker is your only consolation as Grant stumbles and stutters his way towards the inevitable conclusion. Get an aisle seat. You might need it.