September 30, 1996 12:00 PM

Gene Hackman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hugh Grant, David Morse

Clever, creepily involving and shrewdly paced, this movie is one director (Hitchcock) and one actor (anyone but the fatuous Hugh Grant) away from being a classic medical mystery chiller. Grant is as frothy as ever, even though he’s playing a Manhattan emergency room physician who becomes intrigued when a homeless patient exhibits wildly extravagant meningitis-like symptoms before dying. Parker, a nurse, helps him uncover what is basically a Frankenstein plot, with Hackman as the world’s most understated mad scientist.

Director Michael Apted exploits the claustrophobia and menace of New York City’s subways to good effect, and screenwriter Tony Gilroy (adapting Michael Palmer’s novel) serves up some nice twists, so the film never runs out of energy. Sensitive stomachs may rumble at the graphic emergency room scenes, and you’ll wish it were Cary Grant, not Hugh, in the lead role, but your attention won’t wander. (R)

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