A melodrama that almost becomes interesting before it turns into a rip-off of The Fugitive, Robin Cook’s Harmful Intent features Tim Matheson as an anesthesiologist who is out to prove he’s innocent of the crime for which he’s been convicted. When a patient dies under his care, Matheson is found guilty of second-degree murder-it hasn’t helped his case that he’s been a regular user of morphine. Freed on bail, he not only has to find the true culprit in this death, but he also skips payment to a malevolent bail bondsman played by Alex Rocco (The Famous Teddy Z) and avoids a sadistic bounty hunter (Murphy Brown’s Robert Pastorelli). Somewhere in there, Matheson finds time to fall for Emma Samms, who plays a helpful nurse.
As its pushy title suggests, this TV movie is based on Robin Cook’s best-selling 1990 novel, and this source may account for the not wholly sympathetic nature of Matheson’s character, unusual for a telefilm protagonist. While Matheson is obliged to look stricken for two hours, Pastorelli seems to be having great fun. He makes his entrance by grabbing Matheson by the throat while chuckling; rude sleaziness liberates this actor. All too soon, however, Harmful Intent begins echoing scenes from Harrison Ford’s Fugitive, and the film becomes predictable in a way it needn’t have been.