An excessively morbid and unsubtle second remake of the 1949 film noir classic, D.O.A. remains unbelievable and unappealing despite a barnstorming central performance by Dennis Quaid.
Scripter uses two central MacGuffins to get the pot boiling. First Quaid is an English prof who’s unwilling to read his precocious student Nick Lang’s (played by Rob Knepper) novel. Just as hard-drinking Quaid marks an A on the still unread manuscript, Nick falls to his death past Quaid’s window, an apparent suicide.
Second, pic’s structure (bookended with black-&-white sequences at the police station) and catalyst are from Russell Rouse and Clarence Green’s 1949 screenplay for D.O.A. In the third reel Quaid is diagnosed as having ingested a luminous poison, with only one to two days left to live. The protagonist who has given up on life since publishing his last novel four years back now has an obsession to live for: find his own killer.
Convoluted trail of murder and suicide teams Quaid with Meg Ryan, as a pretty coed with a crush on him.
Hailing from music videos and TV’s Max Headroom, married helmers Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel overload their maiden feature with visual gimmickry: lots of tilted, or swivelling first-person camerawork plus moire-patterned lighting to create distortion. Acting, particularly by Quaid, Ryan and Knepper, is fine, but Charlotte Rampling is very unflatteringly styled and photographed.