Picks and Pans Review: Critical Condition
The title is apt; this movie is ailing. It gets off to a healthy start, weakens midway, then limps to a clichéd conclusion. Richard Pryor plays an eccentric entrepreneur who visits a loan shark to borrow $50,000, finds himself the center of a sting operation and lands in prison. Faking insanity, he is transferred to the psychiatric ward of a New York City hospital just before a blackout sends the hospital into chaos. While Pryor is trying to escape, a fetching hospital administrator, played by Rachel (Fort Apache, the Bronx) Ticotin, mistakes him for a much-needed doctor and enlists his aid. Only Pryor could pull off the frenetic phony physician as he flimflams his way from ER to OR. He is befriended by hip orderly Rubén Blades, collides with head honcho Joe (Compromising Positions) Mantegna and battles Bob (Brighton Beach Memoirs) Dishy, who will leave you in stitches as a doctor with malpractice phobia. As Pryor contemplates operating on a patient with a spinal injury, Dishy warns, "We can't expose the central nervous system to a lawsuit." Later, when a psychotic killer takes Ticotin hostage, the film becomes predictable and as funny as a fatal disease, with no real suspense to fill the gaps. The porous script, written by brothers Denis and John Hamill, newspaper writers whose collaborations include Turk 182!, leaves talented British director Michael (Coal Miner's Daughter) Apted operating without an instrument. (R)
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