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Case Number 02616

Buy Robin Cook's Terminal at Amazon

Robin Cook's Terminal

Artisan // 1996 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // February 14th, 2003

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All Rise...

The Charge

Doctors without conscience are the ultimate evil.

Opening Statement

Though Robin Cook is not my cup of tea, this is one of the better made-for-TV adaptations of his novels. The acting, plot, and pace are functional if unsurprising. If you like this sort of thing, Terminal is the sort of thing you'll like.

Facts of the Case

Dr. Sean O'Grady (Doug Savant of Melrose Place fame) begins a prestigious internship at the Forbes Medical Center. Although Sean's specialty is peering into microscopes to analyze little sqiggles of cells, they unceremoniously place him on "pouring colored drops of liquid into beakers" duty. Sean is not amused at this waste of his talent, and goes snooping around the secretive medulablastomanomatocystia project. The Forbes Center has a 100% cure rate for this particular cancer, and Sean wants to know how.

He bumps into an old flame, the delectable Janet Reardon (Nia Peeples). Amid bumbling attempts to recapture her heart (while helping a friend with medulablastomanomatocystia and satisfying his insatiable curiosity about the treatment), Sean finds all is not "benign" at the Forbes Center. For one thing, a hardnosed looney tune of a nurse is giving unauthorized injections. Second, a hardnosed researcher is busting Sean's…beakers. To make matters worse, a hardnosed security chief is keeping close tabs on Sean. Why so tense everyone?

Once Sean's suspicions are confirmed, he and Janet band together to uncover the evidence while fighting off a veritable army of corrupt, fascist capitalists. Will the men in stocking masks and fedoras get to them before the psychopathic doctor death? Or will they encounter the worst enemy of all, the HMO director?

The Evidence

I hope fans of Doctor Cook's will forgive my melodramatic levity. But melodrama is inherent in his work. If everything Robin Cook wrote were true, you'd have a better chance of surviving open heart surgery with rusty barbed wire than a simple checkup.

Terminal is a vanilla medical thriller. Good if you are looking for a pleasant hour and a half free of critical interpretation. There are few red herrings to distract you from the inexorable march of the plot. The romance scene happens on cue, the heinous plan is unearthed at the right moment, and the bad guy finds them just when they have all the evidence.

The acting is all over the map. The two leads are better than required, Michael Ironside is at his most stoic, and the rest of the cast are perfect stereotypes. Despite cartoonish characterizations, the cast steadily feeds us the plot twists and manage to retain their personalities.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out the many films that helped contribute to Terminal. The security chief in Terminal in interchangeable with Wilford Brimley from The Firm. The SWAT team leader has been in countless dramas, such as The Negotiator, Die Hard, et cetera. The villain gets his in a very familiar way (think Ghost and The Crow). They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Terminal is quite flattering! At least this wholesale scene absorption is handled more discreetly than it was in Invasion.

There were moments of humor in Terminal, though I suspect they were unintentional. I laughed out loud (and we're talking a soul-cleansing belly laugh) when the romance scene occurred. It was a non-sequitur of epic proportions, predictable and yet so unreasonable that I laughed for a good two minutes. The other good laughs I got were at the end: once when they showed the bad guy's demise and once as the leads walk away holding hands, white hospital blankets draped over their bruised shoulders.

I am definitely not the target audience for Terminal, but it was better than some made-for-TV movies I've seen in the past. Doug and Nia had passable chemistry and the hysterically cartoonish villains are played with such seriousness that I have to applaud.

The sound is standard TV fare. The video was soft, with lots of jaggies and occasional specks. There weren't any extras.

Closing Statement

There are much better medical thrillers out there. If you are a Robin Cook fan, or want a familiar standby drama, this may be for you. Otherwise, the bland sound, lack of extras, and low replayability make this a poor choice for purchase.

The Verdict

I sentence the cast and crew to repeated injections of medulablastomanomatocystia culture. Don't worry, it looks like harmless colored saline. Case dismissed!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 72
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 60
Story: 60
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile

Studio: Artisan
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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