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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Robin Cook's Terminal (1996)

"Doctors without conscience are the ultimate evil."
- Robin Cook, M.D.

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 30, 2002

Stars: Doug Savant, Nia Peeples
Other Stars: Michael Ironside, Roy Thinnes, Jenny O'Hara, Khandi Alexander, James Eckhouse
Director: Larry Elikann

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, some language)
Run Time: 01h:29m:59s
Release Date: December 17, 2002
UPC: 707729133681
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C C-CC+ D-

DVD Review

Among modern novelists, there are a few who have had the unfortunate distinction of seeing book after book turned into bad movie after bad movie. Next to Stephen King and Michael Crichton, I think Dr. Robin Cook has been the most offended by this egregious practice. Cook, best known for a string of successful medical thrillers, has yet to receive a really good screen adaptation. 1978's Coma was a hokey thriller even then, and it hasn't aged well. Since then, the good doctor's books have inspired several TV movies (and one miniseries), and none have been much more than lifeless time wasters.

1996's Terminal is certainly par for the course. Produced by TV movie stalwarts Hallmark Entertainment, it's a weak attempt at a mystery thriller. Sean (Melrose Place's Doug Savant) is a graduate intern at a prestigious for-profit hospital that has recently received a number of generous donations from wealthy patients who have been cured of malignant tumors; it seems that the scientists have found a cure for brain cancer. But a string of deaths among support staff has raised concerns at the drug company that is funding the research, and Sean, whose brother heads the board, has been sent to do a little spying. It seems, of course, that there may be more to this "miracle cure" than simple medicine. Like... MURDER? Ho-hum.

The plot is party to any number of clichés, made fairly obvious by the preface, a quote from Cook about the evil of unethical doctors—expect your typical amoral medical professionals, corrupted by greed, willing to do anything yadda yadda yadda, dead sick people. There's also the plucky love interest, Janet, a nurse or doctor or something, played by Nia Peeples, who looks like nothing more than a poor man's Catherine Zeta-Jones. Sean and Janet are, of course, former intimates, which means lots of "witty banter" about their failed affair. Other stock characters include the psychotic henchmen Nurse and the Winsome Bald Kid with Cancer.

Director Larry Elikann doesn't do much to break of the TV movie mold either, displaying dull visual style and uneven pacing from start to laughable finish. The obvious breaks for commercials don't help much, nor does the lacking production design. Highlights: a "hospital" that looks like a modified office building, and "computers" that feature the All-Bold-72-Point-Type operating system. The cast does an acceptable job with what they are given, I suppose, particularly a sneering Michael Ironside, but it takes more than a chiseled hero and a sidekick with bedroom eyes to make a movie. Terminal might work if you've never seen a medical thriller, or anything on television, or if you've never read a book with a suspenseful plot. Or if you're brain dead. Otherwise, it is, as expected, little more than a 90-minute gathering of actors in front of a camera, designed to fill time and sell commercial slots. Now that's an unexpected twist. Or not.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This full-frame presentation preserves the original 4:3 television aspect ratio, and it looks a little rough on DVD. Colors are somewhat dulled, but remain natural. Blacks aren't as rich as they could be, and shadow detail is rather poor, with many darker scenes showing a lot of grain. I also noticed quite a bit of artifacting on checked shirts and other complex patterns. Certainly watchable, but not very impressive.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a flat, rather lifeless DD 2.0 mix that fails to make good use of the surrounds. Dialogue is always clear, but sounds a bit unnatural, and sound effects and music are confined to the front soundstage and blandly presented.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: If you love to scene selections, you'll be in hog heaven with the bonus features on this disc. There are 12 of them! No other extras, though, not even subtitles (though there are English closed captions, provided your TV supports them).

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Terminal is one of the lesser television adaptations of a Robin Cook novel, a dull excuse for a medical thriller that never frees itself from the dangerous marshes of lame dialogue and predictability. Don't be fooled by the cast full of familiar character actors or the flashy cover art—this one starts poorly and quickly flatlines.


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