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‘Heart Condition’

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 03, 1990

 


Director:
James D. Parriott
Cast:
Bob Hoskins;
Denzel Washington;
Chloe Webb;
Roger E. Mosley
R
Under 17 restricted


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"Heart Condition," the terminally contrived new comedy starring Bob Hoskins and Denzel Washington, is another entry in the burgeoning Who Thinks Up These Things Department. Its main characters -- a vice cop named Moony (Hoskins) and a slick attorney named Stone (Washington) -- are archrivals, vying for the affections of a tender-souled call girl named Crystal (Chloe Webb). There's an added twist, though. On the same night that Moony suffers a heart attack, Stone is killed in a car accident and, the world being an extremely small place, it's Stone's heart that the doctors use to save Moony's life.

The other ripple in this impossible premise is that in both subtle and obvious ways, the two men are exact opposites. If Stone were silk, then Moony would be polyester. Or burlap. Stone, who is black, dresses in only the freshest threads, knows his restaurants, knows his wines and in all things is the coolest of breezes.

Moony, on the other hand, is white, rarely shaves, bathes even less frequently and wears what look to be J.C. Penney suits, which he dribbles generously with the grease from his burgers. Tube steak is his delicacy of choice, and instead of sipping Veuve Clicquot, he swigs Jim Beam straight from the bottle, saving some, of course, for the cat.

Added to this, Moony doesn't care much for blacks, especially blacks who are moving in on his honey. So it's easy to imagine his reaction when Stone's spirit returns to make sure his heart is being well cared for and to help Moony solve the mystery that caused his death.

Written and directed by James D. Parriott, the film is caught somewhere between seriousness and cheesy exploitation. It's like "The Thing With Two Heads" if it were directed by Stanley Kramer. Apart from the actors, who outclass their material but at least provide us with some marginal pleasure, its features are punishingly standard. Webb, who as Crystal was involved in the accidental death of a U.S. senator, is touchingly fragile, especially in her scenes with Hoskins, when she allows her longing for Moony to show. There's so much genuine feeling in her line readings, in fact, and so much real emotional communication between the actors, that for an instant you almost begin to take the movie seriously.

Webb finds something authentic, something almost poetic, in even the most banal confection. And Washington slips his comic lines across with a winning suavity. The interplay between him and Hoskins, too, is never less than nifty. These are skillful, magnetic actors, and they complement each other neatly. And in moving through tangled plot mechanics, they adopt the proper insouciance, but they don't bail out on their characters. They stick in there.

Still, you wouldn't blame them if they hadn't. Though their partnership is a success, the movie isn't.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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