[Screen It]


(1997) (David Duchovny, Timothy Hutton) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
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Drama: A former doctor turned drug addict finds himself "hired" as the personal surgeon for a violent black marketeer.
Eugene Sands (David Duchovny) is a former L.A. surgeon who was stripped of his license after a patient of his died while he was high on drugs. Living a life of squalor where he spends his time buying more drugs, he happens to be at a bar one night when a man is shot. Feeling that he can't just let him die, Eugene saves his life and then disappears into the night. His actions, though, don't go unnoticed. Raymond Blossom (TIMOTHY HUTTON), a black market kingpin, decides to hire Eugene as his personal surgeon to save associates who can't risk going to a hospital with gunshot wounds. Raymond's girlfriend, Claire (ANGELINA JOLIE) isn't thrilled that he's made Eugene his new pal or that he's telling him about their criminal ways. Things begin to get violent when Raymond decides to drop Vladimir (PETER STORMARE), his Russian client, and pursue the Chinese market. Vladimir obviously isn't happy about this, and decides to shoot several of Raymond's men, which is where Eugene's services come in. He isn't thrilled to be doing this kind of surgery, but doesn't see much of an alternative, and Raymond pays him well enough so that he can continue buying more drugs. The arrangement works well until Thomas Gage (MICHAEL MASSEE), an F.B.I. agent, threatens to send Eugene to jail for drug use and practicing medicine without a license unless he agrees to be a witness of Raymond's illegal trading activities. From that point on, Eugene's world gets decidedly more complicated and violent as he must decide with whom to side and whether he'll go straight and kick his drug habit.
If they're fans of Duchovny (TV's "The X-Files"), they just might.
For strong graphic violence, gore, pervasive language and some drug use.
  • DAVID DUCHOVNY plays a former surgeon who lost his job for working while under the influence of drugs, and since then has continued to be a drug addict. While he does save many people's lives, most of them are criminals and he does so knowing that he's breaking the law (practicing medicine without a license).
  • TIMOTHY HUTTON plays a violent black marketeer who's definitely not a good role model.
  • ANGELINA JOLIE plays a woman we don't know much about other than she pretends to be Raymond's girlfriend and states that her past isn't great (but doesn't explain why).


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    We always get worried when two things show up in movies: The use of voice over narration to tell us character motivation and emotions, and TV stars trying to cross over onto the big screen. The first is often a lazy way of imparting information to the audience and usually gets quite annoying after a short while. Though it's not extremely overused here, it easily could and should have been left out. The second isn't always such a bad thing, although the lure of being a Hollywood movie star often clouds the minds of people who are successful and good at what they do on the small screen. They suddenly get too big for their britches and decide that TV's no longer good enough for them.

    While some former TV actors have successfully migrated to the movies, their luck at doing so greatly depends on the vehicle in which they've decided to drive to stardom. Bruce Willis ("Moonlighting") used "Die Hard" to make it, while Tom Hanks jumped from TV's "Bosom Buddies" and made a big splash in "Splash." For every one of those successes, however, are the dismal failures. Just look at the cinematic track record of most of the cast of TV's "Friends," or at Shelley Long ("Cheers") and her movie career. One of the biggest recent failures occurred when David Caruso jumped ship from "N.Y.P.D. Blue" into some colossal flops, but learned his lesson, and has since returned to primetime TV.

    All of which leads us to David Duchovny, the star of the successful and critically acclaimed "The X-Files." Sure he had small parts in forgettable films after his brief stint on "Twin Peaks," but it's the "X-Files" that's made him a big star. It's a great show, and Duchovny's dry sense of humor mixes well with the character he plays. So now it's time for him to test the silver screen's waters as the headline actor. With an "X-files" movie coming next year, his handlers probably figured before he's completely typecast as Fox Mulder, they should get him another role, something where he can prove that he can play a different kind of character. Thus, he becomes Dr. Eugene Sands, a drugged out former physician. That's enough of a difference and Duchovny does a decent job, but the movie -- his vehicle -- is an old Chrysler "K" car with nearly flat tires.

    While it's passable entertainment, it's just a sluggish retread of so many movies before it and Duchovny is about the only thing that saves it from being a complete "B" type flick. He does an okay job playing a "damaged" man, and is given some of the better lines to say in the film, though they're delivered in his usual dry, expressionless way. His passenger in this vehicle, Timothy Hutton, gets his crack at playing the latest "hot" character in films these days, the crazed villain. Though it's kind of fun to see him ham it up -- when he screams out in song, "Whyyyy? Whyyyy? Whyyy? Delilah...." (ala Tom Jones) he's about as full of swine as one can get -- this type of character is getting old fast.

    One would have hoped that his sort of movie would have lots of twists and turns and double crosses, but sadly that's missing. A few funny moments break up the monotony -- an impromptu surgical session on a pool table with some burly biker assistants is priceless -- but many other scenes, including a terribly boring car chase, are listless. Hopefully Duchovny will fare better with the movie version of his popular TV show, and maybe he'll get another crack at making it on the big screen with a better vehicle than this one. Destined for a quick trip to the video shelves, this movie will go down as yet another failed TV to film migration attempt. We give "Playing God" a 3 out of 10.

    Extremely bloody violence, drug use, and profanity highlight some of the material found in this movie. Many people are shot and wounded or killed, and the results are extremely bloody and not for the squeamish. The main character is a drug addict, but doesn't smoke pot or snort cocaine. Instead he uses medical drugs (synthetic heroin, pain killers etc...). He does, however, finally go straight at the end of the movie. Profanity is extreme with more than 70 "f" words and an assortment of others. Since some kids will want to see this film (especially if they're fans of Duchovny based on seeing him in the "The X-Files"), we strongly suggest that you examine the content before allowing them to do so.

  • Eugene is a drug addict and buys and uses synthetic heroin. We see him mixing it with milk and then drinking it. He continues to take that and pain killers (and even drinks cough medicine) throughout the movie until he decides to go straight.
  • We see a flashback of Eugene when he was still a surgeon and had been up for nearly thirty hours straight. He takes more drugs, including both heroin and some amphetamines.
  • Eugene drinks a beer in a nightclub.
  • People drink in nightclubs in several scenes.
  • Raymond's Russian customers drink vodka in a bar along with Raymond.
  • Some bikers in a bar drink beer.
  • A man shot in a nightclub has blood spurt out and is then extremely bloody as are Eugene's hands. Eugene then operates on him and sticks a finger inside a hole he's cut in the man's body.
  • In a flashback, a lot of blood squirts up from a patient on whom Eugene is operating.
  • A man is shot in the back of the head and blood splatters onto the guy in front of him.
  • We see three dead and rather bloody security guards lying on the floor.
  • We see a bloody bullet hole wound in a man's chest.
  • Eugene finds blood in the back of an El Camino and then follows the bloody trail to an old bus where he finds a very bloody dead man on the floor.
  • Blood squirts out from a man who's been shot.
  • Blood squirts out from Claire after she's shot and later her whole chest is extremely bloody.
  • Claire jams something into a guy's neck causing a lot of blood to stream out.
  • Several more people who are shot are bloody.
  • A man's head is very bloody after he's been hit by a car.
  • Obviously Raymond, his associates, and his buyers have extreme cases of both. Not only are they involved in the black market, but they're also killers. Raymond also tells Eugene, "You need to embrace your criminal self."
  • Eugene is a drug addict and tried to operate on someone while under the influence (that person died). Because his life is in the dumps, he decides to go along with illegally treating Raymond's "patients.
  • Some viewers may be offended by a thug wanting Eugene to "make" a dead man "a Jew" (ie. "un-Circumcise" the man to make him appear to be a stereotypical Jewish person so that there wouldn't have to be an autopsy).
  • Gage has both toward Eugene and threatens him with a "comply or we'll send you to jail" ultimatum.
  • Some viewers may find scenes listed under "Violence" as tense as well.
  • A man is shot in a bar, is badly bleeding, and Eugene operates on him on top of the bar counter.
  • In a drug-induced daze, Eugene remembers being on drugs while trying to operate on a patient who hemorrhages and then dies.
  • A thug holds a gun on Eugene wanting him to save a dead friend, and repeatedly threatens to shoot Eugene.
  • Several angry Russian buyers show up and threaten Raymond, Claire, and others and the scene turns very violent.
  • There's a chase scene at the end that's rather flat and uneventful, and then a mildly tense sequence regarding a showdown between Raymond and Eugene.
  • Handguns/Machine guns: Used to threaten, wound, or injure people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Blow job" (sexual), "Screwing" (nonsexual), "Fag," "Idiot," "Shut up," "Bitch" (toward women), "Kiss ass," "Geez," "Loser," "Bastard" and "Balls" (testicles).
  • Raymond and Eugene race down a two-lane road, driving on both sides of it.
  • None.
  • There's just a minor amount of such music present in the film. The rest is more of an action-oriented type.
  • A rap song mentions "hot metal" in the skin and "execution style" (perhaps suggesting bullets and violence).
  • At least 74 "f" words (4 using "mother" and 1 in subtitles), 10 "s" words, 2 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" and "p" words), 9 hells, 8 asses (2 using "hole"), 1 S.O.B., and 4 uses of "G- damn," and 1 use each of "Oh Christ" and "Oh Jesus" as exclamations.
  • At a basketball game, Claire shouts out, "Take it the hole," to which Raymond comments, "I love it when you talk dirty."
  • A dancer, and a film clip, in a nightclub show women in somewhat skimpy outfits, but we don't see any nudity.
  • A mermaid painting on the side of an old bus shows bare breasts.
  • Gage asks Claire if she's "sexually attracted" to Raymond.
  • We see part of Claire's bare breast as Raymond examines the bullet hole scar right above it.
  • Raymond smokes throughout the movie, and one of his henchmen also smokes.
  • A few other minor characters smoke here and there as do people in the backgrounds of a few shots.
  • None.
  • Eugene makes the comment (about the predicament he's in), "You're either a slave in heaven or a star in Hell."
  • Drug use: Eugene comments that he takes drugs not to get high, but "to feel normal."
  • Two men walk into a nightclub and shoot a man.
  • A man is shot in the back of the head and blood splatters onto the guy in front of him.
  • A man shatters his drinking glass and later Eugene throws a bottle of liquor across the room.
  • Some Russian buyers shoot several people dead in Raymond's warehouse.
  • One of Raymond's men shoots and wounds Vladimir and later, after they've got the information they need from him, they put a pillow over his head and shoot him dead.
  • A thug holds a gun on Eugene wanting him to save a dead friend (who was killed with an ax), and repeatedly threatens to shoot Eugene.
  • Eugene grabs Gage when he finds him inside his apartment. He throws him against the walls and then strangles him until Gage shows his F.B.I. badge.
  • Several angry Russian buyers show up and threaten Raymond and his associates. They shoot and kill one of his men and then shoot and injure Claire. They prepare to kill everyone else when another of Raymond's men shows up and kills the three Russians.
  • Raymond punches Eugene.
  • A man tries to shoot Eugene while both are in a car. They struggle and Claire then jabs something into the guy's neck that causes a lot of bleeding and eventually kills him.
  • Three more people are shot dead in a gun battle.
  • Raymond shoots and kills two men and shoots at Eugene, but misses.
  • Eugene punches Gage.
  • Raymond pushes Claire around in the car and then presses down hard on her bullet hole wound.
  • Eugene drives and knocks off Raymond's truck door.
  • A car hits a man, severely injuring him.

  • Reviewed October 13, 1997

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