Movie Review

Echelon Conspiracy

'Echelon Conspiracy' wends from 'Bourne' to boring

By Joel Brown
Globe Correspondent / March 2, 2009
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"Echelon Conspiracy" combines a righteous message about out-of-control government surveillance with the old computer-gone-haywire plot to make - well, not very much, actually.

Granted, the filmmakers show some wit in casting Hollywood leftie Martin Sheen as the cantankerous head of the NSA, with a picture of George W. Bush on his office wall. And there's a darn good fight scene halfway through, but that's the only time the filmmakers come even close to their apparent dreams of making a "Bourne"-style international thriller.

There's nothing in "Echelon Conspiracy" as suspenseful or entertaining as your average episode of "24," despite similar high-tech gibberish and a national-security HQ that's almost as impressive as the Channel 7 news set. Even the enhanced interrogation techniques here disappoint.

Shane West - no Matt Damon - plays Max, a traveling IT geek who gets a new touch-screen phone as an anonymous present and soon finds himself the pawn of a mysterious conspiracy. Someone has commandeered the NSA's top-secret global surveillance system, Echelon, to track his movements, and they send instructions: Don't shut off the phone or we'll kill you.

Ed Burns and Ving Rhames play former FBI partners who start out on opposite sides and end up helping Max. Tamara Feldman is the deadly hottie who beds Max for her job and ends up falling for him. She does all the hard work in that fight scene until Max finally decides to man up. Jonathan Pryce plays a shadowy billionaire; he doesn't really have much to do with the plot, it turns out, but he owns a lot of books, so we know he's not trustworthy.

A brawl in Prague, a car chase in Moscow, and then it's back to an abandoned bunker in Nebraska for a final showdown with . . . a computer login procedure! Tick . . . tick . . . yawn.

ECHELON CONSPIRACY Directed by Greg Marcks

Written By: Michael Nitsberg and Kevin Elders

Starring: Shane West, Edward Burns, Ving Rhames, and Martin Sheen

At: Boston Common, suburbs

Running time: 106 minutes

Rated PG-13 (violence, language, and one mild sex scene)

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