Directed by John Dahl
Written by Bill Geddie
Starring Ray Liotta and Linda Fiorentino
USA, 1996


Blink and you may miss this one, which tanked disgracefully in American moviehouses. Ray Liotta and Linda Fiorentino may have their admirers, but they're not exactly household names, and their presence in this science fiction thriller left American moviegoers decidely unimpressed. It shouldn't have been that way, since director John Dahl made a name for himself with a pair of neo-noir made-for-cable thrillers, Red Rock West and The Last Seduction, that garnered critical raves, theatrical engagements, and a fairly rabid cadre of fans. The real problem with Unforgettable seems to be twofold: the script is thoroughly uninspired, and Dahl has no idea at all how to juice it up. He has only his own bad judgment to blame for getting him into this mess.

Liotta is a medical examiner wrongly accused of murdering his wife, who hooks up with Fiorentino, a researcher who has figured out a way to transfer memories between lab rats by exchanging their cerebrospinal fluids. Fiorentino isn't eager to experiment on humans, but Liotta steals a vial of her secret formula, mixes it with some fluid from his wife's brain, returns to the scene of the crime, and shoots himself up with her final memories. Through a series of permutations too detailed (and pointless) to describe here, what looks like a straightforward killing becomes more and more involved, and Liotta makes himself weaker and weaker as he gets hotter on the trail of the real killer.

The memory sequences are put together exactly the way you'd expect, with quick cuts, blinding flashes of light, and crashing noises from the surround speakers. The whole gimmick is by now a little too familiar (see also Brainstorm, Strange Days, even the flashbacks from The Fisher King), and Dahl can't seem to bring even these hyperventilating scenes to life, let alone the rest of the film. Liotta and Fiorentino look kind of sleepy throughout the whole proceeding, and even that old crackerjack Peter Coyote can't light a fire under this film's sluggish ass. When did we last see a sci-fi thriller/murder mystery this dull?

Even so, I'd say the jury's still out on Dahl, who seems to have a knack for the downbeat. I enjoyed Red Rock West on its own level, but thought The Last Seduction was a fairly crashing bore, Fiorento's delicious color-by-numbers bitch notwithstanding. It's tempting to write Dahl off completely after a bomb like Unforgettable, but still, it has its moments, including the very ending, that really work -- as if somewhere, buried inside this mess, there's a good movie trying to get out.

DEEP FOCUS: Movie Reviews by Bryant Frazer