Book Review

Weanée Kimblewood

William Graham (director):
Acceptable Risk / The Drug.

based on a novel by Robin Cook.
3L/HBO, 2011.
88 minutes,
Price: 9.99 EUR

Scream… with Laughter!

It is not quite clear what is frightening Kelly Rutherford more, the ludicrous poor script or her tedious husband (below 2, with lab coat). Photos (3): 3L/HBO

This educational film for biomedical scientists provides, besides atrocity, homicide and fire raising, many interesting insights into life science research conducted in shady basements. Along with laughs for lovers of B movies.

The director didn’t waste his time. After just five minutes, blood splatters out of the shower head, scaring a courting couple to death. Luckily, Dr. Edward Wells, a young and ambitious bio­chemist provides a calming diagnosis by tasting the gory liquid: “Rust!”

No blood. No danger. What a relief.

Meanwhile, dozens of questions are badgering the audience: Why is this “rust” exactly the colour of diluted paint? Why does an aged and untended 18th century wooden Massachusetts house, supposedly empty for decades, look suspiciously like a polished film set? And why in the world would such a well-renovated house suffer from such laughable plumbing? Did the builders forget to check the pipes? Why is the water in other rooms, such as the kitchen, crystal clear – even good enough to make tea with?

Why is the protagonist such a dork?

More pressing issues arise, however. For example, why is the central figure, Dr. Wells (played by US actor Chad Lowe), such a tedious nerd? Even more incomprehensible is why the charming and lovely Mrs. Wells (US actress Kelly Rutherford, who had a fatal appearance in Scream 3) has married this dork. Anyway, the name of the game is Acceptable Risk (alternative title The Drug), and we watch young Dr. Wells and his wife moving happily into their new home.

Their home, however, holds a dark secret. Don’t laugh! It’s hidden in a barricaded chamber in the basement (where else?). The secret is a shimmery mould, we learn (although the mysterious “mould” looks more like ordinary white sugar, arranged by the props team. But let’s be generous here).

Less than ten minutes elapse before the mould is found. In the following ten minutes, we take a crash course in modern life science research. Its key feature is, as we learn, its speed. Research is fast; incredibly fast! Even a narcotic slowpoke such as our Dr. Wells is able to manage sophisticated research and to make discoveries worth a Nobel prize within minutes. In his basement!

You don’t believe me? Honestly, Dr. Wells observes almost immediately that the mould’s spores have the effect of a potent analgesic. That’s the difference between super scientists and the average Lab Times reader.

Cure Alzheimer’s within a day!

Moreover, our ingenious Dr. Wells doesn’t need sophisticated analytical equipment for his well-founded analysis. No mass spectrometer, no X-ray crystallography, not even a lab coat. Our brilliant young scientist figures all this out in a filthy old basement. The next day, he takes the sugar, a.k.a. the unknown wonder spores, into his laboratory and feeds them to the first laboratory mouse that comes along. Not to a healthy one: The lab mouse suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease (only Dr. Wells and the film director know what Alzheimer’s disease has to do with a mould that diminishes pain). Anyway, don’t be afraid, dear mouse, recovery is on the way!

Indeed, the mouse is cured overnight. Its degenerated brain cells are recovered and its behaviour is as agile as observed in healthy animals. Some may complain that our medical genius immediately starts a secret self-experiment, although he doesn’t suffer from Alzheimer’s disease at all. Some may furthermore wonder whether Dr. Wells eats the spores in their original state, or whether he detected, isolated and extracted the mould’s effective component (the “formula”) in the meantime (again overnight, presumably).

In fact, it doesn’t really matter. When it comes to medical advancement, apparently logical contradictions aren’t expedient, you know? After all, we are talking about saving lives. Thus, Dr. Wells convinces with the greatest of ease his fellow scientists to become human guinea pigs, too.

Some mad, some murdered, few survive

The rest of the plot is not that important. Of course, something goes slightly wrong with the miracle cure. As a result, some people involved go mad, some get murdered, some burn, few survive. The usual stuff. Acceptable Risk is based upon a 1995 novel of the same name by American author Robin Cook who has sold over 100 million copies with literature of the same quality demands as the film fulfills. The novel was made into a TV film in 2001, directed by William Graham, and recently republished as a DVD.

What do we learn from this film? Well, life science research is dead easy, deadly dangerous and sometimes killing.

Letzte Änderungen: 29.07.2013