With didactic intent behind a rabble-rousing story, filmmakers admirably draw attention to the scandalous condition of health care at the nation’s Veterans’ Administration hospitals while aiming for the seriocomic tone of MASH, Catch-22 and The Hospital. Title refers to a fictional but apparently functioning regulation at the V.A. that withholds full medical benefits from vets if they can’t prove their ailments are specifically related to military service.
Set almost entirely within a zoolike V.A. facility in Kansas City, screenplay presents a villainous bureaucracy ruled by hospital director John Mahoney. Opposing him are the irreverent but dedicated can-do doctors led by surgeon Ray Liotta.
Liotta and fellow medics Forest Whitaker, John C. McGinley and Lea Thompson naturally give newcomer Kiefer Sutherland a hard time, accusing him of having his sights set on a cushy private practice after a short stint in the trenches. Little by little, Sutherland’s eyes are opened to the crazy methods his colleagues need to employ to do any good, and to the value of their work.
Kathy Baker enlivens every scene she’s in as a warm-blooded shrink who gets right to the point when Liotta shows an interest in her. Lenser Richard Bowen has given the film a rough, verite look.