Something's wrong in the Er! Get George Clooney, stat. Instead, model-turned-producer Elizabeth Hurley paged Hugh Grant, her boyfriend and, not coincidentally, her partner in Simian Films. This middling medical thriller is their first effort. Like they say, movies ain't brain surgery, but even escapsim shouldn't show such a reckless disregard for gray matter.
The silly, far-fetched plot, adapted by Tony Gilroy from the 1991 novel by Michael Palmer, pits Dr. Guy Luthan (Grant) against a conspiracy to use the homeless of New York for lethal medical experiments. It gets pretty gross, but the trauma ward makes a nice change of pace for Grant after the twitty terrain of Four Weddings and a Funeral. It's also a relief that the Brit charmer has dropped the manic dithering that infected his American farce Nine Months. Grant looks good with a stethoscope and plays with quiet strength. But shouldn't there be more? Nurse Jodie Trammel (Sarah Jessica Parker) barely has time to get it on with the doc before he's heading to the bowels of Grand Central Station to check out the homeless for clues and to let director Michael Apted pump up the suspense.
For moral tension, Guy locks horns with Dr. Lawrence Myrick, a Nobel Prize winner played by the great Gene Hackman on the fragile line between genius and cuckoo. It's too bad the script never allows their ethical battle over human guinea pigs to rise above the level of plot device. With these actors, the debut film from Grant and Hurley should have soared above TV mediocrity. What the hell were they thinking?