Article 99

(Howard Deutch, USA, 1992)


Article 99 offers a slick and simplistic treatment of a divisive social issue.

Directed by Howard Deutch (Pretty In Pink, 1986) and scripted by Ron Cutler, the film dramatises the plight of Vietnam veterans faced with a bureaucratic ruling that effectively denies their rightful claim to medical aid.

While full of colourful sidebar characters in wheelchairs or sick beds, the story concentrates on two doctors: a righteous rebel (Ray Liotta) who has for years flaunted hospital rulings and an incoming rookie (Kiefer Sutherland) who would rather go by the book.

Before building to an extravagant inmates-and-staff-versus-police-state finale, the film finds space in its jittery mosaic for romantic sub-plots involving Kathy Baker and Lea Thompson.

Although the material is handled with undoubted skill by Deutch, the final result is gratingly superficial and forgettable. Whenever the film gets anywhere near the topic of the wasteful tragedy of death through official negligence, it speeds off into supposedly riotous scenes that desperately imitate similar set-pieces in M.A.S.H. (1970) or Good Morning, Vietnam (1987).

And when it reaches the ultimate political crunch, the movie opts for commonsense consensus rather than actually daring to challenge the established system.

MORE Deutch: The Replacements

MORE populist hokum: John Q

© Adrian Martin September 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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