Picks and Pans Review: Five Days to Midnight

updated 06/14/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/14/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Sci Fi Channel (Mon.-Thurs., June 7-10, 9 p.m. ET)

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Sci Fi Channel calls this four-part miniseries "D.O.A. meets 24." I hate it when they use a formula as a selling point, but Five Days delivers on the promise of suspense.

Physics professor J.T. Neumeyer (Timothy Hutton) visits his wife's grave and finds a metal briefcase containing the police file on an unsolved murder: his own. In five days, the upstanding widower is due to take a bullet in a sleazy strip joint. Once he's convinced that this discovery is no hoax, J.T. starts working feverishly to change his destiny, despite the insistence of a weirdo grad student (Hamish Linklater) that any tampering with the future will throw the whole universe out of whack.

Hutton's J.T. is increasingly desperate but never out of control. Gage Golightly is winning as his bright, resourceful daughter, and Kari Matchett is effectively ambiguous as the girlfriend with a past. Though Randy Quaid plays a homicide detective as if he were still stuck in The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire, you'll want to stay with this clever puzzle till somebody works it out.

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