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Film review: Heart Condition

Bob Hoskins scored big in the special-effects comedy "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." "Heart Condition" is yet another special-effects comedy, this time combining rather uneasily the "body-switch" and "ghost comedy" genres. But it's also a major misstep.

"Heart Condition" stars not only Hoskins, but the talented

Denzel Washington, Oscar-nominated for "Cry Freedom" and the recipient of great notices for the upcoming "Glory."

It is nonetheless a disappointing, irritating misfire from Steve Tisch, the producer of another semi-comic anti-racism fable, "Soul Man," and writer-director James D. Parriott in his big-screen debut.

"Heart Condition" has Hoskins as a tough, racist Los Angeles vice cop trying to get the goods on a crooked black lawyer (Washington). Aside from professional and bigoted reasons, Hoskins also hates Washington because he is the go-between for a high-rolling pimp and the hooker Hoskins loves (Chloe Webb).

After chasing Washington on foot, Hoskins succumbs to a heart attack and is on the verge of death because there is no donor available for a heart transplant. But lo and behold, a car accident victim with a donor card arrives just in time. And he just happens to be Washington.

After several weeks of recovery, Hoskins becomes a desk cop and when he sneaks back to his diet of greasy hamburgers and cigarettes, Washington appears as a ghost. He's not there just to help Hoskins stay healthy, however. He reveals that he was murdered and wants Hoskins to help him get the killer.

There are many variations on the old "you-can-see-me-but-they-can't-see-me" gag, so everyone thinks Hoskins is going crazy. And things turn quite dark as the film heads toward a violent conclusion.

The cast tries hard, especially Hoskins with wild sight gags as he is supposedly being jerked around by a ghost and Washington with rapid-fire snappy patter.

But it all falls flat.

However noble his intentions, Parriott's heavy-handed approach to the comedy — including variations on every racist stereotype you can think of — his need to inject the material with gritty violence and his inability to blend the two make for a schizophrenic film that is never funny, never insightful and often annoying.

He also utterly wastes the talents of Chloe Webb, who was the latter half of "Sid and Nancy" and Danny DeVito's girlfriend in "Twins."

"Heart Condition" is rated R for considerable violence, sex, profanity, vulgarity and drug use.