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Playing God

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Playing God

Starring: David Duchovny, Timothy Hutton
Director: Andy Wilson
Rated: R
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: October 1997
Genres: Action, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Michael Massee, Angelina Jolie

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie review
2.  MrBrown read the review movie reviewvideo review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
1 star out of 4

So where do you go if you're an ex-doctor with a critically wounded patient to treat? Why, an out-of-the-way biker bar, of course. Once you walk in the door with blood on your coat, they'll know you have a patient in the car and will invite you to bring the patient into the back room. They'll even be happy to assist with the operation.

As recently deposed doctor Eugene Sands, David Duchovny is the only reason to see PLAYING GOD, not that he is nearly reason enough. In his ubiquitous voice-over, he gets the best lines in Mark Haskell Smith's script. His one-liners are sometimes funny and other times wise. ("Life is all a matter of perspective," and "Hell does not always look like hell. On a good day, it can look a lot like L.A.") The promising trailers for the film contain most of the good lines.

The story opens on a drugged Eugene -- who lost his license by operating while stoned -- looking to score some heroin in a bar. When the guy next to him is blasted by some disagreeable thugs, he practices a little illegal medicine on the victim as he squirts blood everywhere. PLAYING GOD is the goriest film I've seen this year and the most gratuitously violent. When the tedious story starts dragging, as it does frequently, director Andy Wilson has someone stick something in a vein so blood can splatter the set.

Wilson's direction is aimless and confusing. When they are not throwing fits, his actors speak in whispers, which, admittedly, in this film is not necessarily a bad thing.

Timothy Hutton plays a criminal named Raymond Blossom, who takes a liking to Eugene since it was one of his men that Eugene patched up in the bar. Raymond likes him so much that he interrupts Eugene's nice heroin high by having him fetched. "Is kidnapping your only way to make new friends?" Eugene asks.

Hutton alternates between lethargy and overacting. One minute he is spaced out, and the next he has a temper tantrum. At first, the script makes him seem the good bad guy as opposed to his Estonian associates playing the bad bad guys, who attempt a world record for the most uses of the F-word in a single minute. The movie delights in attempts to shock the audience through blood and language. (I happened to glance at my wife at one point during the show, and she looked back holding her nose.)

"Tonight, I said to myself, 'I will not get high,' " Eugene tells the audience. "I might just as well have said to myself, 'Tonight, I will not breathe.' " And when the obligatory sequence comes where Eugene goes cold turkey to give up his habit, he makes it look no worse than a case of the flu. A few chocolate bars are all it takes.

Plot holes and improbabilities abound. If any of the characters were likable, the frequent required leaps of faith might begin to get on your nerves, but with this collection of lowlifes, one has trouble caring. Even the lead FBI agent in charge of the case acts like a spoiled and smart-aleck fraternity kid. Only David Duchovny gives this film any humanity and provides any respite from its oppressive storyline.

PLAYING GOD runs 1:33. It is rated R for gore, excessive violence, hard drug usage, profanity, etc. The film is not appropriate for teenagers.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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