‘I’m doing medicine, no one’s ever dreamed of.’
Bursting out of a building onto a deserted alley in New York City, two disoriented men, naked and delirious run for their lives. The men split up into different directions. One of the men is picked up by the police and taken to the emergency ward of a local hospital. In the emergency ward, he meets Dr. Guy Luthan (Hugh Grant), a brilliant medical professional at Gramercy Hospital who makes life or death decisions on a nightly basis. The naked patient’s name is Claude Minkins and his body has all the markings of recent surgical scarring.
When Luthan starts making inquiries into Minkins’ death, he unintentionally opens Pandora’s Box. Luthan runs into obstruction and lies and something more sinister. His boss tells him to lay off the issue, but Luthan stubbornly persists.
Behind the obstruction is the celebrated Dr. Myrick (Gene Hackman) who, in secret, has been kidnapping and conducting grotesque surgical experiments on homeless men. Myrick’s research is aimed at helping paralyzed individuals regain mobility. The doctor also has a personal goon squad made up of bent law enforcement officials at his disposal. Myrick sends these thugs to break into Luthan’s apartment and plant pharmaceutical cocaine, getting Luthan arrested and ultimately fired from his job.
With his life now in tatters, Luthan is determined to expose the dark conspiracy and clear his name in the process. For this, he acquires the help of a former homeless patient and a sympathetic young nurse (Sarah Jessica Parker).
Screenwriter/creator of the Bourne Series, Tony Gilroy has done an adequate job of adapting Michael Palmer’s book. Echoing Robin Cook’s bestselling novel, Coma, also involving nefarious medical experimentation, Extreme Measures, is a by-the-numbers thriller with all the suspense of a Lifetime channel special. Character actors Gene Hackman and David Morse are woefully underused and Hugh Grant struggles to break free of his stale romantic comedy persona. Nevertheless, there are some highlights, such as the scenes with the underground NYC homeless community, best chronicled in the gritty documentary, Dark Days (2000) and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from director David Cronenberg.
Overall, Extreme Measures is an extremely average thriller.