Playing God (The New York Post) by Michael Medved
"PLAYING GOd" centers on a seriously suffering surgeon (smoldering David Duchovny of TV's "The X-Files") who goes one night to a seedy, after-hours club to score some drugs.
Suddenly, murderous thugs come up to the bar and pump several rounds into the dreadlocked stranger who was drinking at the bar alongside the depjressed doc.
As he collapses in a puddle of blood, no one is willing to call 911 because of the victim's obvious criminal connections, so Duchovny, after initial hesitation, makes a fateful decision to improvise emergency treatment.
This compassionate act brings dire consequences, since the troubled, drug-addicted physician had lost his license to practice medicine some months before, and he's now swept up ina thrilling new career as "a gunshot doctor," quietly treating wounded crooks who can't risk visits to a hospital.
This juicy premise provides a showy role for Duchovny, who does a solid (if somewhat understated) job portraying a profoundly flawed but powerfully sympathetic antihero.
But it's the villain who steals the show, thanks to a rip-roaring, riveting performance by Timothy Hutton (of all people) as a psychotic crime boss with spiky, bleached-blond hair and pseudo existentialist flourishes.
Hutton tears into the role with such captivating glee that he may launch an entirely new career for himself playing quirky bad guys.
And speaking of launched careers, 21-year-old Angelina Jolie (daughter of screen legend Jon Voight) makes a knockout impression as Hutton's languid, leggy mistress; with her lavishly luxuriant lips, shiny, brittle (and broken) surface, she's nearly perfect as a wounded neo-noir heroine.
Michael Massee is also strong as an amoral, manipulative FBI agent.
In fact, even the smallest roles seem fresh, imaginatively conceived and expertly acted--so why should "Playing God" feel so disappointing when it ends?
The problem is a plot that is significantly less compelling than the people who propel it--complete with ho-hum, only adequate confrontations and car chases, together with a climax that feels simultaneously far-fetched and familiar.
Portentous, pretentious voice over narration by Duchovny ("If you're in the business of saving lives, you better start with your own") adds an especially leaden and ludicrous touch.
In the end, this intriguing doctor's dilemma deserved more audacious and effective long term treatment.
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