Con man Kevin Lennihan framed in a jewel smuggling tries for an insanity plea and is sent to a hospital for review where he is confused for another doctor and takes over the hospital when a major storm hits.
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Part live stand-up performance, part documentary, this film is one of comedian Richard Pryor's later stand-up performances. As foul-mouthed as ever, Pryor touches on most of the same topics as in his previous live shows.
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Sidney J. Furie
Billy Dee Williams,
Kevin Lennihan is a con artist. But this time he's framed and comes before a judge. By claiming insanity, he hopes to get off the hook. He manages to end up in a hospital on Governor's Island, off the coast of New York for a mental examination. That night, a storm breaks out over the area, and the electricity to the hospital is broken. In the ensuing chaos that follows, Kevin is taken for a doctor, Eddie Slattery. Suddenly, he is in charge of a whole hospital! Written by
Basically a vehicle for Pryor, this is a rough and somewhat ugly movie, disfigured in part by a surfeit of swearing in a film that doesn't need it and a bunch of vaguely unsympathetic characters. The central plot a framed man who has claimed insanity has to pretend to be a doctor during a blackout at a hospital is intriguing if somewhat convoluted. As a twist on the fish-out-of-water story, it has much potential, in the same way that Woody Allen's "Hollywood Ending" has much potential in its premise of a suddenly-blind director having to go through the entire shoot without letting anyone know he is blind. Just as with that movie, "Critical Condition" mainly fails to capitalize on its potential, and the film is oddly slow-moving and genuine laughs are hard to come by.
Pryor does well to work with the underdeveloped material, and Rachel Ticotin adds solid support in the role of the hospital administrator. There is a nice addition of a subplot involving crooks roaming the hospital to add to the tension of the staff and patients trying to survive the power outage, and the film as a whole is at least watchable, but not very memorable. It does not have widespread appeal as a comedy/thriller and should probably be best recommended for Pryor fans only.
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