Article 99 (Howard Deutch, 1991)
[originally posted 18Jun2001]
Here’s an interesting concept. Take a director whose career is rapidly fading, give him a star whose career is rapidly fading, and stock his film with rising stars. Think you can come up with a saleable product?
You can if you’re Howard Deutch (Pretty in Pink) and Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys). Article 99 was the last good film Sutherland made before the dry spell that ended with Dark City; Deutch is still looking for a comeback film. Sutherland is surrounded by then-rising stars who have since become household names, including Ray Liotta (fresh off the success of Goodfellas), Kathy Baker (a year before Picket Fences), Keith David (still best known for playing Childs in Carpenter’s 1982 remake of The Thing), and Lynne Thigpen (who, come to think of it, still hasn’t gotten the recognition she deserves). Put the lot of them in a VA hospital, as (all except David, who plays a sociopathic-but-likable Vietnam vet) they try to cut through all the red tape and just do their jobs, while the hospital’s administrator (John Mahoney, now known as Frasier’s dad) tries to hamstring them at every turn. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for the kind of comedy Deutch is used to directing, but somehow it all works, with the doctors and the administration battling it out until things go just one step too far, as they usually do in movies. And it still could have fallen flat on its face if not for the very last scene, as the end credits begin rolling. It’s a feel-good movie that doesn’t allow you to feel good. Now THAT’S an accomplishment. *** ½