With Anthony LaPaglia starring as a master-of-disguise federal agent, CHAMELEON has commendable ambitions to rise above the usual straight-to-video level but is seriously undermined by sluggish pacing and gross overlength.
After DEA agents are ambushed during a raid, agent Matt Gianni (Kevin Pollak) suspects a leak in his office. He calls his boss Stuart Langston (Wayne Knight) and asks for a fresh agent to come in. Langston assigns Willie Serling (Anthony LaPaglia), a master-of-disguise expert who has gone over the
edge since his wife and daughter were murdered by drug smuggler Alberto Cortese (Tony Mandola). Langston tells Serling to go undercover in prison to get the goods on a drug-smuggling, money-laundering operation possibly led by Cortese.
In jail, Willie poses as a computer expert to get a job which allows him to gather bank records on disk. Gianni pulls Willie out of jail and gets him a position at American Liberty Bank, where he poses as a British auditor to find out who is involved. His first suspect is Jill Hallman (Melora
Hardin), whom he also dates, but he discovers that the real crook is another bank executive, Morris Steinfeld (Derek McGrath). Steinfeld realizes he's been found out and meets with bank president Jason Ainsley (Robin Thomas), who informs Cortese. Cortese knocks off Ainsley while a hit man rubs out
Steinfeld and goes after Willie, but Willie shoots him first while disguised as a hobo.
Willie becomes haunted by nightmares about Cortese and his behavior gets more bizarre. Gianni tells Willie to quit, but Willie refuses. After Gianni orders busts at the prison and the bank, Willie goes back to the bank and transfers all of Cortese's money from an offshore account. Willie then
confesses his real identity to Jill and leaves her. Cortese breaks into Jill's apartment and when he's about to kill her, Willie appears and shoots Cortese in the head repeatedly.
CHAMELEON is a surprisingly low-key, talky thriller that remains consistently watchable but doesn't really explore its intriguing premise involving disguise, identity, and personality transference. Every time it appears to be striving to transcend the genre by concentrating on Willie's psychology,
it invariably falls back on its cliched revenge plot. Unfortunately, the plot lacks action or suspense, with a number of slow dialogue scenes lacking any apparent point.
Technically, the film is decently made, with special makeup effects that are quite effective and a cast that's generally above-average for a straight-to-video release. LaPaglia is an interesting actor, handling the various disguises and accents well, but just when it seems he's on the verge of
giving a daring and original performance, he pulls back, just like the film. (Violence, sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: With Anthony LaPaglia starring as a master-of-disguise federal agent, CHAMELEON has commendable ambitions to rise above the usual straight-to-video level but is seriously undermined by sluggish pacing and gross overlength. After DEA agents are ambushed du… (more)