It’s a rare event for a remake to improve on the original, and while this spiffy new version of Rudolph Mate’s 1949 film noir with Edmond O’Brien may not be an unqualified success–due to overstrenuous efforts to impress, and a hackneyed score–it manages to come dangerously close. A good deal of the plot and setting has been reworked (the film now takes place in a college town), but the basic suspense framework–a man who is dying from radium poisoning has only a few hours left to discover his killer, and the story of his search is relayed in flashback–remains the same. Screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue and codirectors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel (the British creators of Max Headroom) work overtime in giving this story the kind of stylistic pizzazz that resembles a film course survey of the genre (characters, for instance, are given names like Nick Lang and Sydney Fuller, and iconographic references are just as plentiful); and stars Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Charlotte Rampling, and Jane Kaczmarek deliver the punchy dialogue for all it’s worth. In the final analysis, the stylistic showboating may count for more than the formula plot, but Morton and Jankel keep things moving and glittering so effectively that there isn’t much time to notice. (Golf Glen, Orland Square, Plaza, River Oaks, Water Tower, Woodfield, Ford City, Yorktown, Evanston, Hyde Park, Norridge, Hillside Square)

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