David Duchovny could be Richard Gere’s little brother, and, if anything, he’s an even more remarkably inexpressive actor. His pin-eyed zombie cool is well used on The X-Files, where, as he peers into the murky world of aliens, serial killers, and shadow conspiracies, his job is to look as stoic as possible. (He stares for our sins.) But in the movies, a good actor needs to be a vivid reactor, and Duchovny, in the garish misfire Playing God (Touchstone), looks as if he’d rather die on camera than express an emotion.
He plays a bad-boy L.A. surgeon who, while stoned on synthetic heroin, enters the operating theater and ends up killing a patient. Stripped of his license, he is hired by a crime lord (Timothy Hutton) to operate on wounded thugs, and, from there, it’s a quick tumble into outlaw madness. Duchovny gets guns shoved in his face and watches the body count grow high enough to make the emergency room look serene. Through it all, though, he never loses his cultivated air of male-model indifference. He’s an existential puppy: too cute to give a damn, too self-absorbed to realize that he’s making us feel the same way about him.
It hardly helps that the movie is awful. Playing God has the buckets-of-blood mayhem, the cruddy ”hip” absurdism, of a late-night cable thriller made by someone who has spent too much time studying the violent texts of Michael Mann, Quentin Taran-tino, and their imitators. A movie like this one, of course, requires a villain as freaky-deaky as Duchovny is blank. But Timothy Hutton, sporting a decadent dye job, is not the man to play him. The harder Hutton works to seem ”dangerous,” the more he comes off like a testy clerk at a Rodeo Drive boutique. D