Dennis Quaid stars as English professor Dexter Cornell, who somehow contracts a fatal toxin that glows Re-Animator green and gives him 24 hours to live. Rather than just bang one of his students — well, he does that, too — he sets out to find who's slipped him one mammoth mickey.
And in doing so, he gets fingered for the death of his soon-to-be-ex-wife (Jane Kaczmarek, TV's Malcolm in the Middle), which is one way to complicate an already packed agenda. Accompanying the prof on his fugitive flight against her will is Meg Ryan (the future ex-Mrs. Quaid) as his flibbertigibbet student he abducts in her party costume of a slip emblazoned with the name Freud. (Get it? College!)
Style over substance, this exercise in noir retread certainly is, which may not necessarily be a bad thing if said style weren't so March 18, 1988. Witness such woefully dated elements as:
• a synth-and-sax score,
• Bill Cosby and Rambo references,
• Dex smoking in class,
• a live cameo by Timbuk3 (Google 'em, kids),
• Kaczmarek not flustered and screaming, and
• Ryan's original lips.
The co-directors could be considered dated, too. Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel were on riding the success of Max Headroom when they went Hollywood for this slick thriller. It doesn't suck, but it's very much of its time, whereas the '50 D.O.A. (available on Mill Creek's current Dark Crimes 50-movie set) remains timeless. (For Morton/Jankel, the real suck would arrive a few years later with their follow-up flick, the career-killing Super Mario Bros.)
Quaid tried his damnedest to make the A-list in the '80s, and deserved to — I think he's a great actor, forever underrated — but the best pairing of him and Ryan came a year earlier with Joe Dante's sci-fi comedy Innerspace.
The only extra for D.O.A., its original trailer, is in rough shape, but Mill Creek's print of the film itself is pristine. —Rod Lott
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• Dark Crimes DVD review