Heart Condition (1990) / Action-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: R for sexuality, drug use, violence, and language
Running time: 100 min.
Cast: Bob Hoskins, Denzel Washington, Chloe Webb, Roger E. Mosely, Ja'net Dubois, Alan Rachins, Ray Baker, Jeffrey Meek, Theresa Randle (bit part)
Director: James D. Parriott
Screenplay: James D. Parriott
Review published July 18, 2007
Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Super Mario Bros.) plays bigoted cop Jack Moony, who spends much of his time becoming irate, eating the worst foods, chain smoking, and swilling in booze. It eventually leads to a stroke. Moony is lucky enough to be the recipient of an emergency heart transplant. One catch: the replacement heart belongs to Napoleon Stone (Washington, Crimson Tide), a recently-deceased hotshot lawyer who also happens to be Black. As if things weren't bad enough for a racist like Moony to know that a Black man's organ beats within him, that Black man is also following him around all the time in invisible (except to Jack) spirit form.
Stone wants Moony to catch the people responsible for killing him, and also to stop living foul with his heart, both things he's reluctant to do. However, Moony finds something to fight for in a mutual former flame, Crystal Gerrity (Webb, Sid and Nancy), who happens to be a hooker in hot water after the recent death of a big-time politician while in her care.
Pretty much a waste of time and talent for a couple of pretty good thespians like Hoskins and Washington, both of whom save this film from sinking right to the bottom of the entertainment barrel, though just barely. It's very predictable, as we know that a hard-ass racist will eventually have a change of heart (so to speak), as well as finally come to terms with the woman he still carries a torch for. We also know that Moony will eventually uncover the secret of Stone's death, and probably have a problem with his heart yet again because he keeps living on the edge.
Perhaps all of these things could have been more appealing had writer-director Parriott (Misfits of Science, Rag and Bone) actually been successful in any of the multiple directions he goes with his leaden story. At times, Heart Condition plays as a comedy, an action flick, a fantasy, and a romance, and yet scores points in none of these. It's not funny, the action is too heavy-handed to jibe with the slapstick, the whole notion of Jack continuously interacting with Stone while appearing loony to those around him grows old, and the love affair between cop and hooker seems rather distasteful (unless you really think that a racist slob and a daft prostitute who has reared the illegitimate child of a womanizing sleazy lawyer/pimp to be a truly romantic notion).
I don't really know how someone could sit through Heart Condition and come away thinking it is time well spent. Perhaps the hugest of fans of the two leads may like their performances, but not many outside of this group will be able to stomach the story, particularly as it nosedives into full-blown drama with a shootout that has a dying protagonist trying to save his hooker girlfriend and her baby from getting their heads blown off. It's not often you find child endangerment and attempted murder in the comedy section of your local video store. Considering the plastic characters and manufactured emotional conflicts, perhaps it would have been more thematically appropriate for Moony to get an artificial heart instead.
©2007 Vince Leo