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A rabid conspiracy-nut cab driver (Mel Gibson) prints a newsletter full of kooky ideas, but lands himself in the doghouse with some unknown evil government force (Patrick Stewart) when one of his theories actually turns out to be true. When the black helicopters swoop down to snatch him away, Mel must find sanctuary with Justice Department attorney Julia Roberts, a woman with an unsolved mystery in her past that just might be related to the whole episode.
Full of great little conspiracies (Oliver Stone is a spokesman for George Bush and the militias in the West are actually groups of CIA operatives) and deft touches that humanize the silliness (I like anything that makes "Catcher in the Rye" a plot element), "Conspiracy Theory" is a weird hybrid of "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Taxi Driver." Never afraid to pull out the stops, Mel Gibson is daffily splendid as the paranoid schizophrenic Jerry Fletcher and, miracle of miracles, Julia Roberts ain't bad either. The two have a surreal, definition-less romance that conjures up the weird human interaction last seen in movies from the '70s.
True, there's a couple of red herrings. There's also a tense shift in Jerry's character about three-fourths of the way through, making everything in the beginning a little suspect. But no other "blockbuster" from this summer has the same sort of silly irreverence, perfectly capturing America's obsession with faulty truths and believable lies. It's a smart one, and worth a couple hours' skepticism. At least that's what you think I want you to think....
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