POSTED ON JANUARY 19, 2011:
No Doctor Can Revive The Heart Specialist, a Hospital Drama That's Bloody Bad
Dull Ache. An absurd plot and bad acting top the medical chart of The Heart Specialist, an embarrassing drama about doctors directed by Dennis Cooper.
When a film is shelved from release for four years, odds are it's a real stinker. In fact, if I were itching to win a sure thing, I would wager a couple of paychecks and my car on a movie being horrible with this kind of delay. The Heart Specialist could have made me a lot of money if I were a degenerate gambler. Filmed in 2006, The Heart Specialist is just now seeing the light of day and it is a terrible, terrible movie. The best thing for all involved, from the embarrassed actors on the screen to the unfortunate audience who buy tickets and the critics forced to watch it in full, would have been to keep this atrocity buried in some vault under lock and key.
Long-delayed films aren't always awful as there are the rare wild cards worth watching that crop up every so often despite long delays due to politics, legal wrangling over distribution, money issues at the studio or some other reason. Usually these films are forgotten about until they get a low-key DVD release and lost into the void of bad movies. I Love You Phillip Morris is an example of a film that is actually worth seeing even though it was held back from the public for nearly two years. The Heart Specialist is not such a movie. The Heart Specialist is an atrocious film in every conceivable way. There is not a single redeeming, rewarding or worthwhile characteristic in it beyond it being such a debacle of cinema.
How bad is The Heart Specialist? This is a film that is so abysmal that I'm torn in my review. I want to steer readers away from films to be avoided and toward ones I believe should be seen. It's a catch-22; I don't want anyone paying money to see this unmitigated disaster, yet, I would like to share the misery of having to witness 90 minutes of the worst cinema that can possibly be imagined. If you are tempted, resist. It's not worth it. Even if it is playing at a theater that charges Nickelodeon fees, it would still be a waste of your $.05 and life.
To be a truly crappy movie you have to have a ridiculous plot and The Heart Specialist has that in overload. Think of the TV show Scrubs without the humor, then toss in a bunch of mysterious story elements that only make the film worse. There's the hip Dr. Z, is a pot-smoking heart and lung specialist that spends about 20 minutes of the movie doing stand-up comedy (you shouldn't want to know, but it has something to do with medical research on the positive effects of laughter). None of his comedy is remotely funny. Also in the cast is an attractive Harvard graduate, the love interest and the fellow students struggling to survive their residency all while enjoying the zany antics of Dr. Z.
I'm not going to over-analyze The Heart Specialist. If I were a masochist I would think long and hard about the ways this goes wrong, what tweaks would have made it slightly more watchable. That would take up half the pages of Urban Tulsa Weekly and cause me a great deal of suffering. Instead, I'll mention the cinematography and audio that gives off the stench of the lowest grade basic cable circa 1986 when VHS production ruled. Or, maybe I could bring up the erratic, dizzying directing style of Dennis Cooper? His camera moves this way and that way, focusing in on the back of a character or veering wildly across the frame. He is partial to busy wipes and near slow-motion pans lingering on the faces of the patrons at the comedy club as canned laughter tries to trick us into thinking Dr. Z's stand-up is funny. Stock footage merges with overdubs in post-production to achieve a perfect harmony of what not to do when making a movie.
Cooper (Academy Boyz), who also wrote the screenplay, should be ashamed of himself. Possibly inspired by the twin sure-fire hits of medical TV shows about young doctors and the low-bar-setting Tyler Perry, he has created a film much worse than anything in Perry's oeuvre. At least Perry's films have a misplaced energy; The Heart Specialist is as moribund as the corpse it resembles. Cooper's script is a relentless barrage of annoying banter filled with slang and fake medical jargon with no depth or, ahem, heart.
The reason this movie got a theatre release after such a long delay can be blamed on actress Zoe Saldana. She has a small part in The Heart Specialist, but an attempt at cashing in on her recent upswing of fame is clearly in the marketing plan. The producers of The Heart Specialist must have been jumping for joy when they saw Saldana take a prominent role in Star Trek and as a blue alien in a little film called Avatar. She was suddenly the salvation that might get their investment money back. Saldana's role in The Heart Specialist is actually third string, but that doesn't stop the producers from making her look central to the story.
Words almost fail me at describing how woeful The Heart Specialist is. Pick any aspect of what makes a good movie and The Heart Specialist fails at it while lurching from one disastrous scene to the next. Don't believe me? Don't waste your own money, but sneak into the theatre or sweet-talk a friend with Netflix to put it in their queue and join me in my agony in being one of the few, the not-so-proud who have watched this abominable movie. It won't be worth it though, you'll never get those 90 minutes of precious life back.
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