Conspiracy, which certainly wouldn’t please John McCain as an emblematic filmic greeting card for his home state of Arizona, is the latest movie in a new trend — straight-to-video works of formerly bankable (or at least consistently employable) leading men stars. The top-liner here is Val Kilmer, who gives his thousand-yard stare a workout as a stoic former Marine who helps bring justice to a small, burgeoning border town. A Walking Tall-type story co-penned by Debra Sullivan and director Adam Marcus, the movie doesn’t necessarily score very high for originality, and neither do the dusty, budgetary constraints work much in its favor. Still, Marcus elicits good work from his cast, and for the most part resists pressing and pulling all the story levers with too much force.
The story centers around “Spooky” MacPherson (Kilmer), a broken ex-military man who worked as an embedded contractor in Iraq. After he’s wounded during combat, MacPherson reluctantly agrees to join a fellow soldier, Miguel Silva (Greg Serano), in Arizona, and help him get his ranch in small, up-and-coming New Lago in shape. But when MacPherson arrives, his friend has mysteriously disappeared, and no one will admit to even knowing him. When he discovers that a corporation named Halicorp (yep, very subtle) is running illegal aliens out of town by any means possible, MacPherson becomes determined to find out the truth, and he will not be stopped until all those involved are punished.
As John Rhodes, a self-styled patriot-businessman loosely in the mold of real-life Blackwater founder Erik Prince, Gary Cole displays some fine ambling and unctuousness; he hits just all the right loathsome notes as the white-collar sleazeball that gives this movie its good-ol’-boy heart of darkness. Jennifer Esposito’s single mother, Joanna Hollis, is more problematic — shoehorned in to provide an awkward love interest (she’s reluctantly dating Rhodes, but of course finds MacPherson’s quiet nobility a huge turn-on), she’s an idea, not a realistic, fully dimensional character. Much of Conspiracy‘s intrigue lies in its first half to two-thirds, in the slow-played set-up. Once its trigger-wire is tripped, and shotgun-style revenge comes into play, it’s a lot less interesting. Still, there’s no denying that the setting and sociopolitical content of the movie reflect an undeniably modern anxiety about security, family and community in an increasingly diverse (read: “browning”) America, and for that reason, as much as Kilmer’s dispassionate glare, Conspiracy mostly holds one’s interest.
Housed in a regular Amray case in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover, Conspiracy is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a decently crisp transfer free from grain or edge enhancement. Apart from bonus trailers for other Sony releases, there are unfortunately no other special features. What?! I thought for sure there would at least be a detailed explanation of how the writers came up with the name Halicorp. To purchase the DVD, via Amazon, click here. C+ (Movie) D (Disc)