Volume 91, Issue 29

Tuesday, October 21, 1997

Something fishy


Playing God easy for Mulder

By Rey Angelini
Gazette Writer

If there is one thing to be said for the new David Duchovny flick Playing God, it's that it has a uniquely original premise, which is not something easily found in films of the gangster genre these days. Unfortunately, plot originality is about all this movie has going for it.

Duchovny plays a drug-addicted surgeon named Eugene Sands, who loses his license to practice after performing an operation while high on amphetamines. His wrongful action results in the death of the patient. Banished from his profession, he devotes his time to feeling sorry for himself and getting stoned. After saving the life of a shooting victim in a bar, he is given the chance to resume his medical career – this time, working as a "gunshot doctor" for a notorious smuggler named Raymond Blossom (Timothy Hutton). It's only a matter of time, however, before Eugene finds himself at odds with both his gangster boss and the federal authorities.

Playing God has its moments. At times, director Andy Wilson (a former cameraman himself) employs a quasi-Tarantino style of film-making that is visually striking. The plot too, as mentioned previously, is uniquely interesting. Sadly, however, it never lives up to its potential. Through most of the film there is surprisingly little action or suspense – the little there is, comes only towards the very end of the film.

The script similarly leaves much to be desired. One gets the feeling that everyone associated with the picture is trying a little too hard to be hip, while never fully succeeding. Ultimately, there is little to differentiate this film from the others of its kind which have been made recently.

After years of television success on The X-Files, Duchovny takes a shot at motion picture acting with mixed results. His morally-confused character evokes little sympathy. He comes across as too distant. As a result, the audience never really relates to him or even cares what happens to him. On the other hand, Duchovny's wry humour is very much present and certainly welcomed. Perhaps not surprisingly, Dr. Eugene Sands is very similar in spirit to Special Agent Fox Mulder, just less likable – and addicted to synthetic heroin.

Hutton, cast as the requisite psychopath, does his best with a character that has been portrayed a million times before. His performance sums up the movie as a whole: it's no better or worse than most of the others of its kind. The one truly bright performance comes from Angelina Jolie as Raymond's tormented girlfriend Claire. Thankfully, she is present for most of the movie.

Duchovny's much-touted big-screen debut proves he is a competent film actor, nothing more, nothing less. Hopefully, in the future he will be given better opportunities to display his acting talent. At least he knew better than to pull a David Caruso and try going-it as a movie actor alone. Luckily, Duchovny still has his day job to fall back on. The season premiere of The X-Files two weeks from now is sure to generate more interest than Playing God will.

To Contact The Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997