January 25, 1999 12:00 PM

Showtime (Sun., Jan. 24, 8 p.m. ET)

“I may be senile, but I’m not crazy,” insists Mace Sowell (Patrick Stewart, from the Star Trek saga), a recluse who claims to be a former intelligence agent marked for murder by an ex-boss turned presidential candidate. But just about everybody else in this film dismisses Mace as nothing more than a retired government PR man with a muddled mind. A psychiatrist (Chicago Hope’s Hector Elizondo) sees his paranoia as a sign of early Alzheimer’s disease. Mace’s daughter (Joy Kilpatrick) makes him accept an in-home caregiver (Kimberly Williams, formerly of Relativity), who tolerates his mania for personal security without appearing to take it seriously. But even if Mace is losing his grip, couldn’t he still be in danger of losing his life?

The premise is so intriguing, and Stewart’s performance so mercurial, that you’re almost sure to stay with Safe House. But the thriller plays its comic elements too broadly (partial blame goes to Craig Shoemaker, Magic Johnson’s former talk show sidekick, as the pool cleaner who assists Mace in security drills), taxes viewer patience with false scares and strains credulity when it finally explains exactly what evil deeds the candidate seeks to cover up.

Bottom Line: Paranoia aplenty, but not perfection

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