Mercury Rising

The actors' serious faces are out of place in this hopelessly silly action conspiracy (1998). To test the integrity of a secret code, some unauthorized National Security Agency underlings hide a sample of it in a puzzle magazine. Simon (Miko Hughes), a nine-year-old autistic boy, cracks the code between sips of hot chocolate—as cascading electronic beeps on the sound track suggest what's going on in his head—and his family becomes the target of a mysterious assassin. An FBI agent (Bruce Willis), who's been demoted in part because of his fatherly instincts, takes responsibility for the boy's safety. But he never resorts to the tactics of several other grown-ups, who all make the same gesture as they urge Simon to look directly at them: they pretend to poke themselves in the eyes with forked fingers—something you'll feel like doing throughout the movie. Harold Becker directed Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal's screenplay, which was based on a Ryne Douglas Peardon novel.

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