Medicine Man (1992) – John McTiernan

I remember seeing the ads and trailers for this film when it was first being touted, it boasted the director of Die Hard and The Hunt For Red October, and iconic actor Sean Connery. It looked like a bit of an adventure film set in the Amazon with the hint of a cure for cancer tucked into its narrative.

The actual product is much different, and the box office suffered accordingly, thanks to the mis-advertising. And because of McTiernan’s past directorial history, expectations were set for something that dodn’t happen in this film, there was no real tension or even adventure. There’s nothing wrong with a good character/medical drama but that’s not what the audience wanted to see going into a McTieran/Connery picture.

The film also suffers from some pacing issues, but in the hands of another director, this one could have really worked… if the produciton company had’ve marketed it correctly.

Lorraine Bracco is Dr. Rae Crane who has arrived in the Amazon jungle to serve as a research assistant to Dr. Robert Campbell (Connery), a bitter man who is on the cusp of the greatest medicinal discovery of the ages, a cure to cancer. But he’s lost the key to the research, and Crane, after some initial butting of heads, works to help him rediscover it, even as the threat of encroaching civilisation, in this case a series of roads that will pass through the native village they are encamped in, and destroy the environment in which this cure may exist.

There’s a lot of dialogue knocking around medical terminology, as the pair get to know one another, and work and live with the indigenous peoples. There are moments of humour and drama, and despite the promise of adventure, very little of that.

Connery is damned engaging no matter what he does, and this time is no different, and while his character is interesting, and has a very definable arc, it’s just not enough to hold viewers’ attention, especially after they were expecting something else.

The film looks great, and the location work in Mexico is gorgeous, and while people can understand that the deforestation of the Amazonian jungle is bad for the environment and humanity, the story, itself, isn’t powerful enough to help drive that point home. Connery is exemplary, and Bracco works to hold her own against him, but the story itself, or lack thereof, holds the entire film back.

Poorly paced, and an unengaging narrative, coupled with mis-advertising crippled this movie from the off, and honestly made me anxious about any future McTiernan endeavors, which considering some of his later efforts may have been a good thing, The Last Action Hero and Die Hard With a Venegeance not withstanding. The film does however boast an interesting score by Jerry Goldsmith.


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