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TV REVIEWS

'Apocalypse' Centers on Neo-Nazi Plot

March 01, 1997|JON MATSUMOTO

"The Apocalypse Watch" doesn't waste any time in seizing viewer attention. The two-part ABC movie begins with a collar-grabbing terrorist bomb attack in London. The chaotic scene surrounding this detonation of a building is an alarming reminder of the type of deadly damage that can be inflicted by extremist political groups.

But don't expect too much hard-hitting reality from this four-hour espionage thriller about a neo-Nazi organization's quest for world domination. As the film unfolds after a gripping start, it becomes increasingly improbable and implausible. Chemically induced mind control, a lunatic terrorist leader, double agents and political scandal are some of the sensational elements that are interwoven into a multilayered plot.

Based on Robert Ludlum's novel, "The Apocalypse Watch" finds a group of Hitler-inspired crazies creating social unrest in England in an attempt to shift public opinion toward its own puppet politician. After conquering England, the neo-Nazi plan is to infiltrate the United States using the same unlikely combination of terrorism and democratic principle.

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Initially, undercover CIA agent Harry Latham (John Shea) comes within whiskers of cracking this seemingly hard-to-conceal conspiracy. But after an unknown double agent exposes him to the enemy, Harry is mentally reprogrammed by the Nazis and eventually murdered. Latham's brother Drew (Patrick Bergin) subsequently takes over the case, along with Harry's old partner, Karin de Vries (Virginia Madsen).

On the surface, "The Apocalypse Watch" unfolds like a James Bond adventure. Nothing wrong with that. What's lacking underneath is a playful Bond wink and a Sean Connery, or even a Pierce Brosnan, type presence. Bergin lacks charisma, though Madsen brings a suitable Dana Scully-like intensity to her role.

"The Apocalypse Watch" does convey a sense of energy and urgency as it moves through various locations in England and Prague. But all this activity never translates into anything more than just passable entertainment.

* "The Apocalypse Watch" airs 9-11 p.m. Sunday and Monday on ABC (Channels 7 and 3).

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