Someone poisoned Dexter Cornell. He's got to find out who. He's got to find out why. He's got to find out now. In 24 hours, he'll be Dead On Arrival.

Mystery Thriller
96 min     6.3     1988     USA


Dexter Cornell, an English Professor becomes embroiled in a series of murders involving people around him. Dexter has good reason to want to find the murderer but hasn't much time. He finds help and comfort from one of his student, Sydney Fuller.


John Chard wrote:
Who was murdered? He was! D.O.A. is directed by Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton and adapted to screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue from a story by Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene. It stars Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Daniel Stern, Charlotte Rampling, Jane Kaczmarek and Christopher Neame. Music is by Chaz Jankel and cinematography by Yuri Neyman. A loose remake of the 1950 film noir of the same name, the story finds Professor Dexter Cornell (Quaid) staggering into a police station proclaiming that he is dying because someone has poisoned him. Told in flashback by Cornell, we see the events that led up to the point he was poisoned, but not who did it, and then track the frantic Professor as he tries to solve the who done it mystery before he keels over and dies. Not as bad as the poor box office returns suggest it is, D.O.A. is still very much a frustratingly shaky experience. Lifting only the basic idea of the 1950 movie, the makers stamp their own mark on the premise but add too many red herrings to the already fishy stew. Some plot developments are daft, as is the casting of Meg Ryan in the key femme role - seriously she is just too cookie cute and homely for this material - while the motive reveal is a bit much to swallow. Yet there's still a lot to enjoy and sample here for the neo-noir faithful. Visually the picture is stylish and appreciative to its noir roots. Opening in black and white to set the story in motion, Jankel and Morton then infuse the film with angled shots and frame distortions. Shadows often come into play, with Venetian blinds and roof rafters impacting, while the addition of a spiral staircase late in the day is most pleasing. Quaid is ever watchable in what is a tricky role that calls for him to garner sympathy whilst not being likable! While elsewhere Stern and Rampling provide good characterisations, even if as written the roles are too small given the importance the characters have to the plot shenanigans. A bit over cooked on the page, and basically a race against time thriller dressed up in neo-noir clothing, D.O.A. is still none the less worthy of a viewing. 6.5/10