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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Article 99
Directed by Howard Deutsch
MGM Home Entertainment 03/92 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - language

A Korean War veteran (Troy Evans) in need of heart surgery tells his wife, "Don't worry about anything. Uncle Sam's gonna take care of me just fine." Arriving at a Veterans' Administration hospital, he finds out that according to the provisions of Article 99, treatment can be denied if the diagnosed condition cannot be specifically related to military service.

The hospital director (John Mahony) is determined to obey Washington's demands to cut costs. While some of the staff go along with this bottom-line approach, others are inspired by the crusading efforts of Dr. Richard Sturgess (Ray Liotta). He finds the callous treatment of veterans to be unconscionable. That's why he's willing to lead a midnight raid on the research department to secure much needed medical supplies. He also regularly performs unauthorized procedures and finds ways to keep patients on the ward who have no place else to go.

A new doctor (Kiefer Sutherland) is appalled by the civil war raging in the hospital. His own efforts to keep a lonely World War II veteran (Eli Wallach) alive in the midst of all the chaos test his moral mettle.

Article 99 is a high-powered black comedy written by Ron Cutler and directed by Howard Deutch. Although many of the incidents in the film are far-fetched, the drama does reveal the sorry state of affairs in some VA hospitals. Ray Liotta gives the best performance of his career as the doctor who puts everything on the line for the sake of his patients. Given the staggering dimensions of America's present health care crisis, Article 99 scores some good points with its moral condemnation of an institution that puts saving money ahead of saving lives.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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