Reviews

Unforgettable

3

Utterly unbelievable, and unlikely to stay etched in the mind, Unforgettable is nevertheless surprisingly atmospheric; even, in its own loopy way, kind of satisfying. It also features such a sterling performance by persistent underachiever Ray Liotta that it's almost possible to forgive him for the godawful Turbulence.

Liotta is medical examiner Dr David Krane, a widower tormented by the brutal death of his wife. Arrested on suspicion due to his past history of domestic violence, Krane was trialed for his wife's murder, but then acquitted due to lack of evidence: in true OJ style, many still think he did the deed. Obsessed with proving his innocence (as well as finding the real killer), Krane learns of an astonishing discovery by pioneering neurobiologist Dr Martha Briggs (played by Fiorentino), who claims that profound memories are stored in the cerebral spinal fluid. She's developed a formula which is able to retrieve them, even if the owners have since popped off to the other side. Krane enjoys access to his other half's stiff, and so embarks on a journey guaranteed to take in more spinal taps than have been seen since the days of Derek Smalls.

Clearly this is a plot that takes some swallowing. Fortunately, director John Dahl - a modern master of film noir, who brought us the excellent Red Rock West and great The Last Seduction - is more than capable of doing the spoon-feeding. His thinking seems to be that we'll accept the most ludicrous of plotlines if he masks it with stylish action, wild chases, and actors who play even the most preposterous mad scientist stuff absolutely straight, as if they utterly believe in what's happening.. Oh yes, and if you crank up the tension - which he does - that can't hurt either.

Writer Bill Geddie - responsible for the convoluted, goofy set-up - has a lot of fun with his unlikely brain fluid device. Soon Liotta is running about draining and injecting the memories of virtually every stiff or unconscious person he comes across, including a dead art student, also offed by wifey's killer, who somehow gives him the handy ability to sketch the perfect likeness of Mr Murder.

But as effective as these scenes are, the performances are what linger in the memory. Liotta's convincing portrayal of a man teetering on the edge is the stand-out, but Fiorentino isn't far behind, switching effortlessly from femme fatale to shy and nervy scientist, while staying drop-dead gorgeous throughout. The rest of the cast do their best with strictly one-dimensional roles, and if the eventual revelation of the real killer fails to make any impact it's simply because the plot has twisted about on itself so much by now that you don't really care. Anyway, it's not as if you need to be Brain Of Britain to figure it out.

But these are minor quibbles about an otherwise powerful and absorbing tale. Tosh it may be, but it's well-crafted tosh, and pleasingly old fashioned in the way it forsakes huge special effects in favour of traditional virtues like strong acting and good storytelling to propel it along.

Verdict:

A dark, brooding thriller with an intriguing, X-Files-ish central concept. Although hardly true to its title, this is still an effective and absorbing yarn that gets you, for the most part, to dispel buckets of disbelief thanks to note-hitting performances and taut direction.

Film Details

  • 18
  • UK Theatrical Release Date: July 11th 1997