After Rain Man, everyone in the universe knows that autistics in films are good for two things: bizarre eye movements and counting. Yet, amazingly, everyone in Mercury Rising is genuinely surprised when young Simon (Hughes) successfully cracks a message hidden in a puzzle-book word search and phones the number contained within. ""How?"" they ask. ""Because he's autistic, and that's what autistic kids in movies do!"" shout the audience, yanked briefly out of their catatonic state.
Simon's autism is, like every other thing raised in this dot-to-dot plot, merely a device to further the narrative. So Willis is a burnt-out undercover FBI man because his superiors need to mistrust him; he meets a helpful young woman because the plot needs someone to baby-sit Simon; and Baldwin is evil and calculating because the story needs someone to be bad. And if the film-makers can't be interested in coming up with anything new, why should we be expected to watch it?
Past an impressive siege opening, everything in this `thriller' is terrible: the action, the supposed tension, the dialogue and the plot. Every opportunity to make it good is missed. Simon's ability to memorise maps and routes could have been used to get them out of a scrape, but no, that would have been too clever. Instead of the tense cross-country manhunt that there could have been, all the characters merely meander around Chicago and end up on a rooftop for the decade's least-likely showdown. Years as an action hero has trained Willis to do this sort of thing in his sleep, which is exactly what he does, sliding heavy-lidded from one tepid sequence to the next. This should never have been made. Avoid it and pretend it wasn't.
Seriously rivalling The Replacement Killers as the most tedious action movie of '98, Mercury Rising ignores every potentially exciting plotline the story offers and serves up a turgid mush of straight-to-video regrettableness.