. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Flimsy Plot, Unforgettable Action

Weird science has been the catalyst for many a successful thriller, but just like in the lab, when the experiment gets out of control all you're left with is a big mess.

Unfortunately, such is the fate of "Unforgettable," a 1995 release now showing at the Americom House of Cinema. A big-budget venture from director John Dahl, known for his neo-noir style in "The Last Seduction" and "Red Rock West," the movie begins with flair and is visually stimulating, but soon spreads itself so thin that shooting holes in its hypothesis becomes the best way to enjoy it.

"Unforgettable" opens on the streets of Seattle, where forensic examiner Dr. David Krane (a functional Ray Liotta) arrives at the scene of a gruesome multiple shooting in a pharmacy. Dahl's touch is evident -- and riveting -- as the camera swings lingeringly around the harshly lit, blood-spattered room, drawing the viewer instantly into a macabre scene made even more macabre by the fact that it is all in a night's work for the coroner's office.

Krane, however, takes an interest in this case because of a telltale piece of evidence -- a matchbook distinctively rolled that, as we later learn, is identical to one left at his home on the night that his wife was brutally slain. Still haunted by her murder, his resolve to track down the killer is sharpened when he hears of an experiment performed on rats that transfers memory through brain fluid, allowing one rat to remember what another has experienced.

Enter the mousey Dr. Martha Briggs, played understatedly and effectively by Linda Fiorentino, whose memory research -- supplemented colorfully on screen by a little flashy cat-rat-maze cinematography -- prompts Krane to dig up a vial of his wife's brain fluid, conveniently in storage at the coroner's office, and inject himself with it.

The injection -- which blossoms into a series of injections as Krane gets high on the brain fluid of nearly everyone in town to figure out who was behind his wife's murder -- begins a series of vivid and often gruesome "flashbacks" shown both from the victim's point of view and from an observer's, and providing Krane not merely with memories but, as he puts it, with "raw experience."

This phenomenon brings to mind any number of fascinating questions about the nature of memory as a symbiotic blend of chemistry and emotion, a fusing of science and sentiment. But regrettably they are questions that cannot be addressed by a film already hot on Krane's trail as he chases hit men, drug pushers and cops gone bad. The memory injections, which hold such promise as the film's driving force, become ironically obscured in a seemingly relentless quest to pack in as many modern evils as possible before the murder can be solved.

The overall effect, then, is twofold: While the memory transfers sustain the movie's fast pace and create gripping visual montages -- literal "flashes back" -- they are simultaneously so poorly analyzed within the context of the film that they make "Unforgettable" unbelievable and unwieldy. How is it, for example, that with all these transplanted memories circulating in his head, Krane manages to distill chiefly those relevant to the case he is investigating? Questions like this are distracting even to a viewer willing to suspend disbelief. Moreover, with a who-dunnit track decreeing that one of the minimal cast of characters must be responsible for the crime, the movie is forced to take a number of late plot twists that are not suspenseful so much as contrived.

As perhaps befits the video age, "Unforgettable" is at its most striking simply as a collection of images. It is a pity its storyline could not have been as seamless, but the scientific premise just doesn't hold water.

"Unforgettable" opens Monday at 9 p.m. in the Americom House of Cinema in the Radisson-Slavjanskaya Hotel, 2 Berezhkovskaya Naberezhnaya and runs through Nov. 24. Tickets cost the ruble equivalent of $8 and are half-price for students, children under 12 and pensioners. Tel. 941-8747. Nearest metro: Kievskaya.