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Playing God

Starring David Duchovny;
Timothy Hutton and Angelina Jolie
Screenplay by Mark Haskell Smith
Directed by Andy Wilson

IN SHORT: Dry Duchovny humor and a bucket of blood.

Right at the beginning of Playing God, narrator David Duchovny's defrocked doctor character warns the audience right off "If you're squeamish, look away." If memory holds, nine bodies, three illegal operations, one car chase and about forty gallons of stage blood later, Playing God draws to a close.

As gory as it gets, and it gets rather as sidearms, shotguns and knives surgical instruments do their dirty work, Playing God keeps everything almost in balance with Duchovny's out of left field commentary on each situation, all of which are very funny. Sick, but funny. Just the kind of stuff Cranky eats for between meal snacks.

Dr. Eugene Sands (Duchovny) is not the boy you'd want to take home to mother, were you so inclined. Stripped of his license to practice medicine, he tops off his day with a milk and synthetic heroin chaser and pops Percocet pain killers to maintain when the sun comes up. Just as in classic film noir scripts, Sands is in the wrong place at the wrong time; an after hours LA club where Russian mobsters have come to blow away the next guy over at the bar. He thinks once, twice and steps in to do M*A*S*H-type on the bar surgery and then trucks on home for his synthiSmack trip into LaLaLand. What begins as a good deed will lead to unwanted redemption and a pile of bodies two stories high.

As it is written, no good deed goes unpunished and that would mean introduction to Raymond Blossom (Tim Hutton), a very rich counterfeiter of music, software, clothes, whatever. Hutton's work is absolutely killer, the character intelligent and just short of psycho. It's a bad guy role that actors cut their eye teeth on -- logical and logically nuts. His partner and girlfriend, Claire (Angelina Jolie) doesn't like the doctor -- it's either 'cuz she really doesn't like him, or that she really does like him (in which case there's the matter of Raymond's violent jealousy). The sexual tension is limp, but the pair will bond for different reasons down the line.

Some rival thugs rip Raymond off. In retaliation, Ray's goons chase down and capture one of the rivals, shooting and almost killing him in the process. Sands is brought in to save the day and discovers that the rush from saving a life via surgery is better than the rush from the drugs. But under this addict's skin is a weird sense of morality -- Sands knows he can't slice legally, but the addict part of him needs the high. Duchovny is, as always, very understated. His character telling himself that because he's a doctor addict, he's really under control. It's a good piece of scripting and there's no preaching on this point. Good show.

Playing God gets even better as a sleazy FBI agent named Gage works his way into the story on the side of law and order. On the side of not law and order, but always waiting on the perfect wave, are a pair of beach boys who have already perfected the psycho-nutzoid shtick. They're cartoons, but violent cartoons.

Playing God rarely stops to take a breath without setting you up for a violent exit, or something so unexpectedly funny that you wonder where it came from. Duchovny has picked a great vehicle, and Mark Haskell Smith's script plays to his strengths. Tim Hutton takes the ribbon as psycho of the month.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Playing God, he would have paid . . .

$6.00

Cranky repeats: this is the kind of humor I like, but the gore pushed the envelope. It won't bother any GenXer.

Click to buy films starring David Duchovny
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