Time: 96 mins.
SYNOPSIS: A college professor is poisoned, sending him on a search to uncover his murderer before it's too late.
BOTTOM LINE: I can't say why I don't hate this over-the-top remake of a classic convoluted film noir. I should. Though it has greater visual style than the original, the acting, dialogue and story are just as hokey and contrived. What makes the earlier version watchable is the powerful performance by Edmund O'Brien. What keeps this one afloat is sheer energy and king-sized balls. Quaid plays a middling college professor who has 48 hours to figure out why someone deemed his sorry life worth rubbing out. This one meanders off the point almost as much as the first, though the supporting cast of characters, especially Rampling and Stern, are put to better use in this version. They play characters you certainly won't like, but make their presence pretty unforgettible.
The same can't be said for Ryan, who has the misfortune of playing the sympathetic femme fatale, which is not only horribly written, but completely wrong for her. She's just too goofy amidst all the murder and mayhem. There are plenty of red herrings along the way, which keeps this dark, wacky ride from being boring even if it does make your head hurt from the incongruity of it all. Quaid turns on the full smarmy charm, but he just never manages to get you on his side. He doesn't necessarily deserve to die, but you don't ever end up liking him enough to care that he's not long for this world. Watching this film is like driving by a car accident you just can't look away from horrifying, yet completely compelling.