Shadow Conspiracy review

All the rage during the US government's post-Watergate years, paranoia-laced conspiracy thrillers lost ground in the '80s to slam-bang films that reduced politicians to little more than supporting slimeball status. Time, then, for a crack team of film-makers to peel back the rancid underbelly of US government?

Maybe not. Charlie Sheen's latest attempt to send his career to the gas chamber is a conspiracy thriller in name only. It may look like an all-star tale of political chicanery, but it's the action movie equivalent of a pension fund for over-the-hill Hollywooders - Sutherland, Gazzara, Waterston and the spectacularly bloated Gore Vidal.

It should be easy to look good next to such flabby support, but a Brylcreem-swathed Sheen blows it all the same: the numerous references to Bishop's laser-sharp intellect are idiotic next to Charlie's robotic fratboy mannerisms. Quite rightly banned from the winking-at-camera antics of his recent "comedy" attempts, Sheen is a a blank travesty of his Platoon-era self. And Hamilton tackles her under-written ex-girlfriend part with the blazing mediocrity that's accompanied every non-Terminator role she's ever had.

But the actors shouldn't be allowed to can-carry alone. Director Cosmatos, employable again after his career-best gunslinging epic Tombstone, slips back into lacklustredom. Rarely have car chases and shootouts looked so zombified, and rarely has this viewer stared so balefully at his watch.

Then again, not even John Woo could have injected life into Hasak and Gibbs' amateur-night script, which shows awe-inspiring contempt for logic. (Bishop miraculously evades CIA surveillance by donning baseball cap and shades.) Full of the kind of dialogue that seems funny in retrospect but is pure hell to sit through, this abysmal film fails on every conceivable level. Sheen's career really has hit rock-bottom - it's just not possible to get any worse than this.

What devillish conspiracy put such Z-grade material into production in the first place?

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