D.O.A. is a noirish thriller with a simple premise. Professor Dexter Cornell (Dennis Quaid) is having a rough time in his life when he wakes up poisoned by an unknown person, having only twenty-four hours to live. Cornell is in the process of a divorce and growing bored of teaching, when the poisoning occurs after a drunken night on the town. Cornell becomes entangled with a young college student (played by Meg Ryan before she became a named star) as he attempts to hurriedly solve the mystery of who killed him, as he puts it. It’s a remake of a 1949 movie that was considered quite good in its day.
A 1988 production licensed from the Touchstone Pictures division of Disney, D.O.A. starts off strong with an interesting setup. We meet all the primary characters early and the mystery is strong enough to prevent anyone prematurely guessing the outcome. The movie is quite stylish with its dialogue and cinematography, using a cast of veteran Hollywood actors that would go on to bigger fame like Daniel Stern and Charlotte Rampling.
Unfortunately plot contrivances start creeping into the story as the hunt for the killer by Cornell continues. One such development is where two characters are literally super-glued to each other, if for no other reason to keep them together on screen for a sizable chunk of the movie. The romance between Quaid and Ryan in the movie feels shallow and seems included almost as an afterthought to the main mystery. However, they do share a remarkable chemistry on the screen that covers up some of the failings in the plot as the movie progresses.
What you ultimately think of this movie is going to come down to the final twists and turns revealed in the last act. While the twists are elegantly set-up earlier in the movie, some of them stretch the bounds of credibility by the end. They are not the worst twists in Hollywood history, but veteran fans of the thriller genre might be vaguely disappointed by the final reveal of Cornell’s killer. It practically comes out of nowhere and the motivation is ludicrous. D.O.A. is decent entertainment that is neither bad nor great. While failing to fully deliver on the intriguing beginning, D.O.A. is an enjoyable time-waster.
Mill Creek Entertainment has provided a handsome HD transfer for D.O.A. The disc looks particularly good for a budget-priced catalog title. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1 at 1080p, the 97-minute film is encoded in AVC. The average video bitrate for the movie is precisely 25.00 Mbps. The compression is very sturdy in handling the fine grain of the movie and includes no unsightly artifacts. The HD master looks in great condition, free of any print damage or fading due to age. It’s a sharp image with a palpable sense of cinematic texture.
Aside from a few brief shots, the lack of edge enhancement and sharpening is a welcome sight to a transfer that looks faithful to the movie’s original cinematic look. Resolution and high-frequency detail are very good in close-ups and medium shots. It’s easy to examine facial detail down to the pores and stubble.
The contrast is hearty with a high level of clarity present in day and most night scenes. Depth of field and dimensionality to the picture do wander at times, from excellent to merely okay. Overall the video quality is about as good as generally seen from a 1988 production on Blu-ray.
The main audio option is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack. It’s a strong mix with a wide soundstage and convincing action effects for stereo. The soundfield is enveloped during a critical action scene in the middle of a nail gun attack. Other moments have very realistic-sounding telephone effects, which seemingly come from off the screen.
Both the score and dialogue sound fine with a normal level of fidelity. D.O.A. was a Hollywood production with big stars and the production values shine through in the well-recorded soundtrack. It’s still limited to two channels, so people accustomed to modern surround tracks will be a tad underwhelmed by the lack of punch and directional activity.
The sole extra feature included is the movie’s original theatrical trailer, presented in 480i.