Desperate Measures

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Details At A Glance

Category Action Thriller Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1997 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 100 minutes Other Extras Cast & Crew Interviews
Featurette - Untitled (4 mins)
Featurette - Making Of (11 mins)
Cast & Crew Biographies
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 4 Director Barbet Schroeder

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Michael Keaton
Andy Garcia
Brian Cox
Marcia Gay Harden
RRP $34.95 Music Trevor Jones

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (MPEG 5.1)
English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1    
Macrovision Yes    
Subtitles None    

Plot Synopsis

    "Suspension of disbelief". This is what movies are all about. We know what we are seeing on-screen isn't real, but for two hours, we accept the reality of what is presented to us on-screen. All of a sudden, mere mortals can perform superhuman stunts, take bone-shattering amounts of punishment and come out with their hairstyles intact. All of a sudden, we can accept that an acoustic coupler can connect you to the Internet at 115,200 baud. All of a sudden we can accept some dodgy physics, or some implausible coincidence because we are able to suspend our disbelief.

    Desperate Measures is a movie which stretches implausibility so far that we cannot suspend our disbelief, and thus fails to engage us. The scenario is so far-fetched that I cannot believe anyone seriously thought they could make anything out of this movie. It stars Andy Garcia as Frank Conner, an FBI agent who has a son with leukaemia. His son needs a bone marrow transplant to survive. The only person with compatible bone marrow is Peter McCabe (Michael Keaton). McCabe is a psychopathic killer, locked up for life with no chance of parole for multiple cold-blooded homicides. Frank goes to McCabe and asks him to donate his bone marrow to help his son. McCabe reluctantly agrees. McCabe escapes whilst undergoing the procedure and the rest of the movie is spent in Frank chasing McCabe down.

    So what is so hard about suspension of disbelief for this movie?

    Implausibility 1: We have to accept that Frank can break into the FBI building, ambush a security guard and gain access to confidential tissue typing information on prisoners, all without any consequences.

    Implausibility 2: We have to accept that this type of tissue-typing information exists in the first place.

    Implausibility 3: We have to accept that Frank believes that a psychopath like McCabe is going to donate his bone marrow without any attempt to escape out of the goodness of his heart.

    Implausibility 4: We have to accept that multiple doctors, and Dr Samantha Hawkins (Marcia Gay Harden) in particular are willing to risk being shot to tend to individual patients in a busy metropolitan hospital, to the exclusion of all of their other patients.

    Implausibility 5: We have to accept that despite killing multiple civilians and police officers and having the entire San Francisco Police force after him, McCabe is still taken into custody again alive, by Frank acting alone.

    Implausibility 6: We have to accept that having been caught, McCabe then gives his bone marrow willingly to Frank's son.

    I could handle one or perhaps two extreme implausibilities in the one movie. However, this movie simply asks us to believe in too many improbabilities.

    This makes Desperate Measures simply a jaded action thriller with some reasonable action sequences and some mild tension and a somewhat predictable ending. Michael Keaton is wasted in his role. It is badly scripted, and rather than being sinister, he simply becomes dreary.

Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of this movie is exceptionally good, with only one complaint. I noted a Tristar end-credit, so they are responsible for this transfer, and it shows.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer was crystal clear and razor sharp at all times. Shadow detail was spot on, and no low level noise marred the transfer at any point.

    The colours were all well saturated, though much of this movie is shot in somewhat muted tones.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen.

    Film-to-video artefacts consisted of somewhat frequent vertical jumps in the picture at scene changes. These were all minor, and I have seen this type of artefact before, but this transfer had this artefact to such an extent that it became irritating.

    Film artefacts were very few and far between.


    There are two audio tracks on this DVD. The default is English MPEG 5.1. There is also a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, which is the track that I listened to. Please, PLEASE Roadshow Home Entertainment, dump the MPEG tracks. They are a waste of space on the disc, or at least go back to defaulting to Dolby Digital.

    Dialogue was very occasionally hard to hear, with a few lines lost here and there, but was very clear otherwise.

    There were no audio sync problems with this movie that I could detect. This is something that I have not been able to report in a long while with Roadshow Home Entertainment discs, and was a major relief.

    The musical score was written by Trevor Jones, and consists of both poignant and stirring music. It was present often, and was aggressively mixed into the surrounds, adding to the ambience of the movie nicely.

     The surround channels were frequently utilized for music, special effects and ambience. An aggressive enveloping presence was created by this soundtrack, right from the very beginning, and sustained throughout the entire length of the movie.

    The .1 channel was moderately heavily used for music and for effects, such as explosions. It was well-integrated into the overall mix, and enhanced it nicely.


    There are the usual collection of Roadshow Home Entertainment extras on this disc. All the extras on this DVD except for the Theatrical Trailer have MPEG audio encoding only, not Dolby Digital. This is once again a pity, as I thought that Roadshow Home Entertainment have learned that we want Dolby Digital, not MPEG audio. One good thing, though, is that the entire disc is 16x9 enhanced, including the menu and the extras (making them windowboxed).


    The menu design is unremarkable and quite straightforward. Of particular note is the extra navigation options added to the Interview screens to make navigation between interviews simpler than before.

Theatrical Trailer

    The theatrical trailer is present on this disc, presented in an aspect ratio of 4:3, 16x9 enhanced (windowboxed), with both an MPEG 2.0 soundtrack and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, both of which sounded mono.

Featurette - Untitled

    A four minute featurette, along the usual lines of Roadshow Home Entertainment featurettes is present on this disc. This is presented in an aspect ratio of 4:3 16x9 enhanced with an MPEG 2.0 soundtrack, which sounded mono.

Featurette - Making Of

    An eleven minute featurette labelled as a "making of" featurette is also included, in the same format. This consists of behind the camera shots of various scenes being filmed. The absence of any running commentary makes this extra of limited interest.

Cast & Crew Interviews

    These are also along the usual Roadshow Home Entertainment line of questions with short snippets for answers. They are presented in an aspect ratio of 4:3, 16x9 enhanced. They have only MPEG 2.0 sound (mono), though. These are back to the usual irritatingly short snippets. On a more positive note, these can be navigated more easily than previously because of the addition of navigation arrows to the screens which list the interview questions.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Limited Cast & Crew Biographies round out the extras on this disc. These are navigable with a single key press, which is good.


    Desperate Measures is a ho-hum action thriller, presented on a very good looking and sounding DVD.

    The video quality is very good, with only very minor problems.

    The audio quality is also very good, and very enveloping, with only very minor problems with some dialogue intelligibility.

    The extras are standard Roadshow Home Entertainment fare.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
21st January 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer