"Shadow Conspiracy" is one of those misfires that is so bad that it's funny. Box office returns will be modest at best at the outset, then steeply downhill from there.

“Shadow Conspiracy” is one of those misfires that is so bad that it’s funny. Box office returns will be modest at best at the outset, then steeply downhill from there.

In the first of several movies set for release that suggest criminal conspiracies in the White House, presidential aide Bobby Bishop (Charlie Sheen) learns that a group of highly placed officials are plotting against the president (Sam Waterston). After his source is murdered by an automaton assassin (Stephen Lang), Bishop finds he has become a target himself. Except for his mentor, the White House chief of staff Donald Sutherland), and a cynical reporter (Linda Hamilton), Bishop can’t trust anyone. Everyone is a suspect, from the vice president (Ben Gazzara) to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Charles Cioffi). As the bodies pile up (making for quick bits from the likes of Theodore Bikel and Terry O’Quinn), it’s apparent this movie is basically about having Bishop and the reporter run around Washington dodging bullets until the utterly ludicrous finale.

In terms of acting, Sheen and Hamilton are required to do nothing more than act cool under fire, while Lang’s emotionless killer is simply a plot device. The rest of the cast looks like they were hired for a few days of shooting and were grateful they didn’t have to carry the picture.

Nicholas Turturro for example, is wasted as a technogeek who can track Bishop through computers and satellites. A computer-animated graphic could have played the role.

Unlike the classic “Seven Days in May,” little time is devoted to the self-justifications of the conspirators, making the movie little more than a cat-and-mouse game with often preposterous results. In one scene, Bishop and the reporter lock themselves in an elevator shaft at the White House, so the Secret Service has to break in through the skylight. Their solution: shoot out the skylight.

This is a picture in which the assassin can hit everything but the hero. The climactic assassination attempt — in-volving a toy plane and hundreds of balloons — is so ridiculous there’s only one real danger: that the president (and the audience) will laugh to death. For a purported thriller, that’s fatal.

Shadow Conspiracy

Production

A Buena Vista release from Hollywood Pictures of an Andrew G. Vajna presentation of a Cinergi production. Pro-duced by Terry Collis. Executive producers, Vajna, Buzz Feitshans. Co-producer, Adi Hasak. Directed by George P. Costamos. Screenplay, Hasak, Ric Gibbs.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), Buzz Feitshans IV; editor, Robert A. Ferretti; music, Bruce Broughton; production design, Joe Alves; art direction, Bill Hiney; set design, Thomas Minton, Johnathan J. Short; set decoration, Anne D. McCulley; costume design, April Ferry; sound (Dolby digital), Keith A. Wester; visual effects, Mass. Illusion; assistant directors, Jim Chory, David Cass; second unit director-stunt coordinator, Vic Armstrong; casting, Karen Rae. Reviewed at Sony Copley Place, Boston, Jan. 28, 1997. MPAA Rating: R Running time: 103 min.

With

Bobby Bishop - Charlie Sheen
Conrad - Donald Sutherland
Amanda Givens - Linda Hamilton
The Agent - Stephen Lang
Vice President Saxon - Ben Gazzara
Grasso Nicholas - John Turturro
President - Sam Waterston
Murphy - Henry Strozier
Gen. Blackburn - Charles Cioffi
Att. Gen. Toyanbee - Stanley Anderson
Professor Pochenko - Theodore Bikel
Janet - Dey Young
Congressman Page - Gore Vidal
Blythe - Paul Gleason
Frank Ridell - Terry O'Quinn

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