Sunday, August 3, 2008


Ironically kicking off with The Hippocratic Oath, Marc Schoelermann’s twisted and strangely riveting medical thriller, Pathology, focuses on Ted Grey (Heroes’ Milo Ventimiglia), brand new hotshot resident at the Metropolitan University Medical Center.
Life smiles on Ted when we first see him, in bed with his fiancee, wealthy Gwen Williamson (Charmed’s Alyssa Milano). Smart, connected, successful, he’s got a dazzlingly bright future ahead of him.
That is, until he’s drawn into the sinister world of a group of Met U. residents, led by Jake Gallo (Michael Weston), who draw out the worst tendencies that lie inside Ted, particularly the murderous ones.

Schoelermann (working off a script by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who also wrote—and directed—the Jason Statham adrenalized actioner Crank, as well as the upcoming Game) delivers a nasty depiction of a world where cleverness and talent can be parlayed for a sense of entitlement and elitism, provided morality is chucked out the window.
There is, in fact, a disturbing lack of a moral compass in Pathology, which can be looked at as CSI gone so very terribly wrong, where the methodology of murder becomes nothing more than a game played by idle minds.
If there’s a weak spot to Pathology, an aspect of it that may be problematic for some viewers, it’s that; the fact that none of these characters, not even our erstwhile protagonist, Ted, is sympathetic, or even likeable. (Well, perhaps Gwen, but she’s far too unsuspecting a character for my tastes.)

So it’s fascinating that Schoelermann—and his rather good cast, which includes The L Word’s Lauren Lee Smith—serve up a film that, despite not really having a “hero,” is still an engaging cinematic experience.
Pathology is captivating the way an Animal Planet show is, where we see exotic and dangerous beasts that really can’t help their natures, turn on their prey—and each other—without the slightest hesitation.
This isn’t even a film like, say, Woody Allen’s Match Point, where there always seemed to be the constant danger of Jonathan Rhys Meyers being caught out; here, the aptly named Grey and Gallo and their coldly ruthless gang are apparently far too smart to be caught. That’s never really in the narrative equation.
Ultimately, not even Gwen knows her fiancee’s true face.
And neither do we, the audience, for that matter.

Again, we loop back to what could be troublesome for Pathology’s potential audience: that our “hero” is apparently a highly intelligent and amoral individual.
Seeing everything as it unfolds, we don’t even have the luxury of the obliviousness Gwen clearly has concerning Ted. We also don’t have the love for the character that she has.
There’s a fairly effective façade that Ventimiglia adopts for Ted, removed from the previous television persona he displayed on Gilmore Girls. Here, the charm and good looks are quite clearly on the surface, camouflage for the cunning, calculating creature Ted is.
Ted is Heroes’ Peter Petrelli on valium, with his humanity lobotomized.

There’s a definite emotional remove for the audience, without a sympathetic protagonist to identify with. But that’s a distance that’s constantly bridged by moments of shuddering revulsion as we witness the macabre on-screen antics of the residents.
Again, we watch, morbidly fascinated with these sexy, photogenic monsters, with the decidedly opaque Ted at center stage.
Honestly, I’m not even convinced that what he feels for Gwen is love at all. Or perhaps it is. Who knows with these sociopaths?
Suffice it to say that Ted is not your average movie hero, and Pathology is not the sort of film to comfort its viewers.
It paints doctors as egotistical and dangerous, for one thing. And there’s a whole lotta post-mortem make-up mayhem (three cheers for Tatopoulos Studios!) for the gorehounds. And some nasty, kinky sex too.
This is not for the straight-laced, I’ll tell you that much.

As a medical thriller, this one’s got some impressive credentials, certainly more than past films of this stripe like Stefan Ruzowitzky’s disappointing Anatomie.
But like I said, it’s probably not for everybody, so be advised.

Parting shot: John De Lancie’s in this, as Dr. Morris, as well as Empire Records’ Johnny Whitworth (as fellow resident Griffin Cavenaugh), and L.A. Law’s Larry Drake (though he’s perhaps best known to horrorheads from Sam Raimi’s Darkman and the schlocky Dr. Giggles) as, ermm, “Fat Bastard.”
Also, if you don’t blink, you may just catch Battlestar Galactica’s Sam Witwer as “Party Boy.”

Parting shot 2: A side-effect of my surprise at Pathology’s nasty effectiveness is a sudden and sweet anticipation of Neveldine and Taylor’s upcoming Game, which is headlined by Gerard Butler.
The near-future science fiction vehicle not only reunites them with Ventimiglia, Witwer, and Whitworth, it also boasts John Leguizamo, Michael C. Hall, Kyra Sedgwick, and Zoe Bell among its cast.

(Images courtesy of [Pathology OS; design by The Refinery]; [Pathology banner and DVD cover art]; [Pathology images]; and [Game image].)

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