Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ray Liotta, Linda Fiorentino, Peter Coyote, Christopher McDonald, David Paymer, Duncan Fraser, Caroline Elliott, Colleen Rennison, Kim Cattrall, Stellina Rusich, Kim Coates, Suzy Joachim, Garwin Sanford, Jenafor Ryane
Written by: Bill Geddie
Directed by: John Dahl
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language and nudity
Running Time: 117
Date: 02/23/1996

Unforgettable (1996)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Memory Pain

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In 1994, John Dahl had a good year. His Red Rock West was rescued from obscurity and became a theatrical hit, thanks to San Francisco's Roxie Releasing, and his The Last Seduction opened to enthusiastic praise, with discussion of an Oscar nomination for its incredible star, Linda Fiorentino. (She was unfortunately disqualified, since the movie had played on cable.) Dahl probably had his choice of scripts for a follow-up, and it was only natural that just about everyone was disappointed by Unforgettable. It's a oddball movie, to be sure, but with a little perspective, and knowing Dahl's touch for film noir, it becomes an interesting and welcome item in his filmography; it's certainly less of a black sheep than The Great Raid.

Ray Liotta stars as Dr. David Krane, who was accused of the murder of his wife and found innocent. He's obsessed with finding the man who actually killed her, and he has his chance when he meets Dr. Martha Briggs (Linda Fiorentino). She has developed a drug that allows its user to experience another's memories. Krane re-lives his wife's murder, but only finds a deeper mystery. He must continue taking the drug to uncover more clues, but the drug begins to take a toll on his system, and time is running out.

If the movie has a drawback it's that Fiorentino's role here is far more passive and second-tier than the one she had in The Last Seduction; it's a shame she didn't get another chance to shine. Of course, the sci-fi concept is bizarre and absurd, and it opens up more plot holes than it can efficiently explain. But Dahl understands the ins and outs of film noir and he captures a certain desperation in the main character and in his narrow world. His emotional state is easy to grasp and sympathize with.

Kino Lorber released the movie on Blu-ray in 2015, including a making-of featurete, quickie interviews, unedited "B"-rolls, and a trailer. Lately, Dahl has been working in TV, but he did manage to create a fascinating little selection of terrific noirs, and Unforgettable is part of it; I hope he gets at least a couple more shots before he goes to his own dark place.

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