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‘Miracle Mile’ (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 14, 1989

In the nuclear romance "Miracle Mile," the world ends, as the poet said, not with a bang but a whimper. Humankind's final curtain is a kitchen sheer, suddenly luffed in the finale of this powder-puff thriller.

Anthony Edwards plays the most hapless of heroes, Harry, a wandering trombone player who has just found his heart's desire in Julie, a coffee shop waitress played by Mare Winningham. They make a sincere but unengaging couple whose low-key rapport saps some but not all of the energy from this fitfully directed undertaking.

They've only just learned they both like to dance when Harry intercepts a wrong number on the pay phone outside Johnnie's Coffee Shop -- "It's happening! We're locked into it ... 50 minutes and counting ... The big one" -- thereby learning that Wilshire Boulevard will be cinders in 70 minutes. So begins the flight from Los Angeles' Miracle Mile.

A homeless crazy, a transvestite, the owner of Johnnie's and assorted other late-night types join the race to meet a helicopter leased by Landa, a stockbroker and Johnnie's regular, played by crisp Denise Crosby. As a digital clock blinks away the minutes, Harry proves a real procrastinator of an action hero, a complete nincompoop in whom the cowlike Julie puts her trust.

Of course, this is the stuff of suspense thrillers, but writer-director Steve DeJarnatt sets an unsure pace that tries our patience. It seems he's not committed to his story or his characters, but to the idea that he is saying something profound -- which he isn't. In the hands of a heads-up action director -- say, John Badham of "War Games" -- "Miracle Mile" would have clicked right along and we'd still know that DeJarnatt believes cockroaches will inherit the earth.

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