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Proximity (September 17/01)

After Rob Lowe hit it big with The West Wing, it would have seemed as though he were done with straight-to-video movies. Now that he actually has some respect in Hollywood, it would have been only natural for him to attempt to regain his once-promising feature film career. But a casual glance at his recent filmography shows that he's mostly taking on lead roles in action films that nobody has ever heard of. Proximity is his latest.

Lowe stars as an ex-college professor sent to prison for driving drunk and killing a student (who he happened to be having an affair with). His life in jail is now one of routine; he's made some friends but spends most of his time in his cell reading. One night, though, he hears some odd sounds in the cell next to his (where a friend is housed) and is told that said friend hung himself. Lowe expresses his doubt that this man would take his own life (since he was soon to be released) and soon finds himself being transferred to another prison. En route, a fellow prisoner in the van attempts to kill him, but Lowe fights back and the prison van is toppled after the driver is stabbed in the neck during the melee. The rest of the film follows Lowe as he attempts to find out why so many fellow inmates have been mysteriously dying at his prison - and why he was to be the latest victim.

It's a pretty good premise, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. This is basically a retread of The Fugitive - but Rob Lowe ain't exactly Harrison Ford. And where the Fugitive was consistently exciting and always compelling, Proximity comes across as cliched and predictable. Once the so-called "twist" involving co-star James Coburn is revealed, there's not much left to keep us interested. We know that Lowe will be exonerated; we know that Coburn will get his comeuppance; we know all this. With other movies, those things may be foregone conclusions, but at least it's an interesting journey getting there.

Proximity has some fairly exciting action sequences, and a lot of dull spots. Stick with The Fugitive.

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