Mix "Die Hard" and "Rainman," how can you go wrong? Bruce Willis is back in his you-fill-in-the-blank on-the-edge role: cop-on-the-edge, taxi-driver-on-the-edge, and now Art Jeffries, an FBI agent on-the-edge, reduced to pushing pencils in a Chicago office after punching a fellow law-enforcement official. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, although I was not too impressed with either "The Fifth Element" or "Last Man Standing," not that Bruce was at fault. In "Mercury Rising," though, the formula works to near perfection: An autistic 9-year-old Chicago kid, Simon (Miko Hughes), cracks a top-secret code (codename: Mercury Rising) in a puzzle book (don't ask), his parents get whacked, and only Jeffries can keep the boy from an early grave. Director Harold Becker ("City Hall") wastes no time dropping a few bodies across Jeffriesą path, and the action doesn't slow down except when Simon needs a nap‹and he's pretty peppy. Alec Baldwin is convincingly smarmy as an NSA bigwig morally strong enough to put the lives of the many over the lives of the few, while also appreciating a good bottle of vino. For Hughes' Simon, the best I can say is he consistently stares off into space, throws fits and solves uncrackable codes in a manner that suggests autism to the untutored eye; ultimately, Simon is just an accouterment to Jeffries, a reason to get shot at‹a key element in an action film. Chicago actor Chi McBride fills the crucial role of Jeffries' buddy at the FBI, Robert Stanton and Bodhi Pine Elfman are lovably goofy NSA computer geeks, Kim Dickens is a kind stranger in a clingy sundress, and even the city of Chicago plays a role as Jeffries and Simon cavort on the Kennedy, the Michigan Avenue bridge, the Wrigley Building and the el tracks.
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