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Sean Connery found the cure for the 20th century plague, but he’s lost it. That’s the requirement for this week’s 1992 film, Medicine Man. Before the advance of progress into the rainforest, will the magical cure for cancer be found against the backdrop of the Amazon rainforest and the support of Lorraine Bracco?
Dr. Robert Campbell (Sean Connery) is a withdrawn scientist deep in the Amazon. After years of isolation, he communicates with the company supporting his work for machines and a research assistant. Dr. Rae Crane (Lorraine Bracco). She is there to watch Campbell and assess whether the company should continue to fund its work.
Campbell sees Crane as an outsider who will endanger his job. Campbell is reluctant at first and realizes that he needs Crane on his side so that the secret of his work is revealed. Campbell found the cancer cure, but can’t duplicate the serum he created.
Skeptical at first, Crane reads Campbell’s work and conducts an experiment on a guinea pig. After monitoring the cancerous animal and administering a dose of its usable serum, the animal recovers with no evidence of the fatal disease. Crane is a believer and agrees to work with Campbell for a week to duplicate his work.
The more time they spend together, the more the icy relationship between the two melts. Campbell knows which flower he obtained the serum from, but one element is missing to complete the serum. Just growing at great heights in the local trees is a threat on the horizon that is far more dangerous than a lack of funding. Road development through the Amazon causes Crane and Campbell to step up their efforts, leading to conflict with government agencies. Just as the two scientists solve the mystery, Campbell, Crane and the local indigenous group flee further into the jungle due to their forced removal in hopes of finding the mysterious plant.
I like the fact that Medicine Man is a new version of Joseph Campbell’s Heart of Darkness. Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now brought the classic story with all the violence and madness of the main characters to the Vietnam world in the Vietnam War. Medicine Man comes from the same form as the other two works. In contrast to Heart of Darkness, where the main character Kurtz is a murderous monster, our ‘Kurtz’ Robert Campbell is a noble figure.
The stories are parallel to each other from the moment of the opening credits. Lorraine Bracco’s character is our Marlow. She was sent to evaluate Campbell and decide whether to shut him down. Similar to the written work and the latter Vietnam War film, Crane falls under Campbell’s spell and agrees to work with him.
For a movie starring Sean Connery in the ’90s, turning the villain into a nameless source of modern progress is a risky move. The destruction of the Amazon rainforest and its associated effects have been a growing concern over the past four decades. It was a good choice to turn the lumberjacks and road builders into a nameless body inhabiting the force of world advancement rather than establishing a vicious character. The fact that someone who is about to cure cancer will be evicted from the area for a street’s sake is a truthful possibility.
Lorraine Bracco is a gifted performer, but she spends most of her time on screen either in a hysterical state or unnecessarily loud when responding to Campbell’s moods. Sean Connery spends much of his screen time looking annoyed.
It was stupid to end the film on a burgeoning romance between Campbell and Crane. The movie would have had a more powerful and meaningful ending if Crane had chosen her path because she respected Campbell and his work, not because she fell in love with him.
Fun movie facts
- Campbell’s hairstyle is based on the hairstyle of composer Jerry Goldsmith. Connery reportedly met him at a party and imagined the look.
- When Connery promoted the film, he shared how he would start every day of production with a round of golf.
- Connery received a salary of $ 10 million for his work.
- A longstanding rumor was that Lorraine Bracco turned down the role of Catwoman in Batman Returns for this film. She confirmed in an interview with Andy Cohen in 2019 that it wasn’t.
- Tom Schulman’s script sold for $ 2.5 million.
- The film premiered at the El Capitan Theater and was number one at the box office on the opening weekend. The following weekend, it was ousted from the top by Wayne’s World.
- Bracco was nominated for a Razzie Award for her performance in the film.
- The film can take place in the Amazon, but was shot in Mexico.
The Golden Popcorn Bucket Award
Trying to tell a new version of Heart of Darkness is admirable, but the result in Medicine Man is not a must. If this film were made today, my guess is that the film’s direction and characters would be very different and could result in a more memorable story.
Medicine Man isn’t a bad movie, it’s just not that entertaining. The film gets one 1 ½ golden popcorn bucket Rating.
Next week, in honor of Mother’s Day, we’ll look back on Steve Martin’s hilarious return as George Banks in Father of the Bride II.
Directed by John McTiernan
Produced by Hollywood Pictures / Cinergi Pictures Entertainment
- Sean Connery as Dr. Robert Campbell
- Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Rae Crane
Release date: February 7, 1992
budget: $ 40 million
Box office gross
Domestic: 45,500,797 USD