New Line // 1990 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // August 27th, 2004
Sometimes a good heart is hard to find.
Jack Moony (Bob Hoskins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit) is a crude, bigoted cop who has a personal vendetta against Napoleon Stone (Denzel Washington, Glory). After a particularly stressful chase, Moony suffers a heart attack. The doctors warn Moony's partner that he will not survive without a transplant. The chances of finding a match are difficult, since Moony has a rare blood type. A miracle occurs when a matching heart is suddenly available. The donor turns out to be the newly deceased Stone. After ten months of rehabilitation, Moony returns to work in a desk job only to find himself face to face with Stone. Having returned to earth as a spirit, Stone needs Moony's help to find his killer.
So begins Heart Condition, a film that suffers from cinematic schizophrenia. Despite some big laughs, there isn't enough comedy to qualify it for that genre. It isn't serious enough to succeed as drama, even though everything but the kitchen sink is piled on here. The suspense is far too routine and idiotic to succeed as a thriller. The final product feels as if writer-director James D. Perriott had no idea which road he wanted to take as he was writing the first draft. He should have been sent back to the typewriter.
Perhaps Heart Condition read better on the printed page, if only in explaining the presence of both Bob Hoskins and Denzel Washington. Both men were coming off of huge critical and commercial successes: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Glory. It's hard to believe that these two intelligent actors would choose a weak vehicle such as Heart Condition as a follow-up. To tell you the truth, it is their performances that make the film worth seeing. They have good chemistry together, which makes the few comic scenes work very well. Bob Hoskins is especially impressive as the flawed cop who isn't really such a rotter after all. It is hard to make a difficult character sympathetic, but Hoskins invests such realism into the role that we like him in spite of his character's failings. Denzel Washington is also very good as his nemesis and reluctant partner, Stone. He could have phoned in this role, as many lesser actors have done in the past. However, Washington also invests his character with human touches, which allow us to accept this premise even as we shake our heads at it.
New Line presents Heart Condition in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer is very good. There are a few imperfections, such as light grain, scratches, and specks, but they are not distracting to the viewer. Edge enhancement is evident in a few scenes but is not a distraction. Colors are a bit on the soft side, but that may have been the intent of the director.
Audio is available in either Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or 2.0 mono. If you must choose, I'd stick with the mono track. It is juicier and bolder than the stereo track. The stereo track has a hollow tinniness that is not present in the mono mix. The jazzy score is much more vibrant in the mono track than the shallow stereo mix. Dialogue is easily heard in mono, but surround creates a softness that never goes away.
Heart Condition is a completely barebones affair. Not even the original theatrical trailer is offered here. Although it isn't a very good film, a commentary track would have been interesting to have. I always enjoy learning about the thinking process that goes into making a film, even if it is a misfire.
Heart Condition is an unsatisfying film. It doesn't work as either comedy or drama, and the ending is an exercise in narrative desperation. The performances by Hoskins and Washington go a long way toward making the film watchable. Nevertheless, New Line's disc is not worth a purchase, although it is good for an evening's rental. It's the type of film that you can watch once but never again.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated R