''Chain Reaction,'' ''Absolute Power,'' and more focus on government conspiracies

By Chris Nashawaty
July 26, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

If Oliver Stone and The X-Files have taught us anything, it’s to trust no one in the government. Hollywood seems to have taken that lesson to heart. Between Tom Cruise’s mole hunt in Mission: Impossible and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s battle against a corrupt federal marshal in Eraser, the message seems to be, We have seen the enemy, and he is a civil servant. Other conspiracy-minded films headed to the screen:

Chain Reaction: The Fugitive director Andrew Davis helms another on-the-lam thriller, opening in August. Keanu Reeves plays — don’t laugh — a scientist framed for murdering a fellow egghead who’s in cahoots with a clandestine government agency.

The Shadow Conspiracy: Charlie Sheen, fresh from the paranoia-laden The Arrival, plays a presidential aide racing to save his boss from a killer within the administration. Due in October.

Absolute Power: Marilyn Monroe death theorists should see a familiar theme in this Clint Eastwood-directed thriller (due next spring) about a thief, played by Eastwood, who witnesses the brutal killing of the President’s well-to-do mistress.

Executive Privilege: Wesley Snipes stars as a D.C. detective who investigates a White House murder, in which the President’s family is under suspicion, in this ’97 feature.

If this new conspiracy trend sounds eerily familiar, that’s because it seems to be a nod to such Watergate-era classics as All the President’s Men and Three Days of the Condor. But why a revival now? ”Today’s films are a reaction against the new world order,” says Adi Hasak, coproducer and co-screenwriter of The Shadow Conspiracy. ”Without a clear foreign enemy like communism, we’re pitted against bureaucracy.”