'Coma' goes nineties.
Two men burst onto the streets wearing practically nothing except
plastic wristbands and saran-wrap. Obviously, the location is
New York City. Something sinister, however, is afoot, as we
shall discover when a N.Y. doc with an English accent watches the
charts, graphs, and body parts go up and down like a frenetic
Hugh Grant, as Dr. Guy Luthan, appears to be an awful lot like a
male version of Genevieve Bujold (e.g. has accent, works in
hospital, is both concerned and suspicious). In an 'E.R.'
atmosphere, he maintains himself as a surgeon full of 'Chicago'
Clooney 'Hope' security and just the right touch of sensuality.
Elizabeth Hurly has produced the film. Grant doesn't quite seem
to know whether he should be light-hearted or serious in the
opening hospital sequence, so he opts for the latter. Why not?
Surgery can be fun. But when the bald man with the bouncing
responses appears, he wonders what could cause such impossible
reactions. Little does he know that his inability to either
analyze or believe what he sees, combined with his professional
curiosity, will lead him dangerously close to a web of intrigue
(a sort of Mr. Marple of the medical set).
Another doctor, of greater prestige and renown, is the evil-doer
involved with the odd proceedings, a man who has decided to
maintain his day-job as neurologist while part-timing in the role
of God. Boy, what a hippocrat! Portraying Dr. Lawrence Myrick
is none other than Gene Hackman, as perfect in his performance as
ever. Unfortunately, he has to deliver a speech to Grant in the
last minutes of the film that not only unnecessarily details the
'intricacies' of plot to the audience, but is embarrassingly
naive for the character he plays. One wonders how Hackman
managed to get through the text without the assistance of a
Michael Apted, director of such notable features as 'Coal Miner's
Daughter,' 'Gorillas in the Mist,' and 'Nell' creates a tense
thriller with twists and turns, but this film is not quite as
disturbing as it should be. Scenarist Tony Gilroy is an
extremely talented writer (as he's already deftly proven with
'Dolores Claiborne'). The structure and form of this story are
solidly framed and, as already stated, the tension builds well
throughout, but the characters make several moves that don't
always exactly fit their personalities, profession, or
intelligence. For example: If the man's a doctor and he has a
certain level of intelligence and he knows he's in danger, then
why does he do some of the stupid things that he does? Huh?
Another: The irony of friend and associate Jodie Trammel (Sarah
Jessica Parker) questioning Dr. Luthan's ethics at the beginning
of the film should not be lost on the attentive viewer with
respect to her own actions at the end of the film. Then again,
she does a second rapid-fire about-face, so who knows what to
think? Not the scriptwriter, it would seem. Throw away the
values and write a thriller. Maybe Tony spent too much time
playing Dungeons & Dragons.
Me? I've already seen 'Coma.' Now I've seen 'Extreme Measures.'
I think I'll go in for another viewing of
John Frankenheimer's 'Seconds' before I climb into my hospital
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett