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Broken Vessels (1998)

Though it starts out as if it's going to be the cut-down version of Bringing Out the Dead as clean-cut Jason London joins looser Todd Field in driving an Emergency Medical Team ambulance around Los Angeles and getting into scrapes, this actually turns out to be yet another descent-into-druggie-hell movie as Field turns London on to recreational activities that would make Robert Downey Jr baulk. It has good moments, and there's a terrific performance from Susan Traylor as Field's speedfreak next-door-neighbour, but we've been here before and got the point a couple of thousand miles of overdosing-in-the-john and puking-in-the-fishtank scenes back.

Directed by Scott Ziehl, who co-produced with Roxana Zal, who womanfully takes the dull role of the nurse London goes out with before sinking completely into hollow-eyed twitching misery. The trauma that haunts London all along turns out to be a bad memory of drunkenly running down an Amish boy back East, while Field's major hang-up is his geriatric junkie Gramps (Patrick Cranshaw), whom he has been feeding heroin for years and whose death pushes him into injecting rather than smoking the dragon. Some scenes are familiar from the Scorsese - a call to a club to revive an overdosed goth - but the pay-offs are different - here, the paramedics locate the dealer and muscle him into handing over his entire stash. The LA sleaze supporting cast includes Charlie Spradling London (who used to be billed as 'Charlie' and keeps adding names), William Smith (the injured-in-a-domestic biker who has to be subdued with the cardiac arrest paddles), Ron Jeremy (as himself) and James Hong.

First published in this form here.


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