Savvy scientist Rae Crane (Bracco) in "Medicine Man" pulls on her hiking boots as if she were a warrior. In essence, she is. She's been sent by her drug company to check on Richard Campbell (Connery), a reprobate biochemist living in the Amazon rain forest, searching for a miracle serum. Recently, Campbell hasn't submitted reports, listed his expenses, or even communicated with his underwriters.
A long trek by foot and canoe takes Crane to him - in straw head-dress, and very drunk, readying himself for a native ritual. Crane, sure he's crazy, at first despises the inhospitable eccentric. But he's found a cure for cancer, although, even after hundreds of tries, he's not duplicated his formula. "I found a cure for the plague of the 20th century," he laments, "and now I've lot it."
Crane insists they turn the project over to the drug company; it's too much for two researchers in a primitive lab. But Campbell has reasons to refuse, and insists Crane and he somehow find the formula again, which involves getting a flower from huge trees upper canopy. With the help of handsome local tribes, they ascend rope harnesses to breathtaking vistas. The two slowly become a most satisfying movie couple, even with little romance and no sex scenes. Instead, two equally headstrong people discover a meeting of the souls and minds. Their antagonism softens but never ends, although their deep emotional bond and mutual respect arise, as does Crane's compassion for the emotionally tortured Campbell. (Connery, a magnificent actor, subtly underplays him. If Connery didn't make it seem so effortless, he might finally be recognized as the greatest male actor alive.)
Every aspect of "Medicine Man" - the music, the scenery and its ecological message - is so naturall to the story that it hardly seems "a message movie." But it reminds us that tearing down the rainforest threatens not only the Indians who make their living in it, but the animals and trees that sustain them, and often contain miraculous cures.
McTiernan is now an accomplished, genuine artist, always focused on the human elements, as here he emphasize the Amazon itself. The compelling story, strong environmental message, believable characters, Amazon natives, real-life conflicts, pluck, determination, caring, self-discovery, and zest for life make "Medicine Man" a wonder.
Sean Connery, Lorraine Bracco, native Amazonians
Rainforest, Sean Connery, Lorrain Bracco, natural medicine,
English with smattering of native words Reviewer's Name:
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