Usually when there’s a mismatch between a movie and its ending, it’s a fairly decent movie being ruined by an ending that makes a hash of everything that came before it. (I’m looking at you, Deadline, and don’t think I don’t see M. Night Shyamalan hiding behind you either.) Much rarer is the situation where the movie itself is fairly unimpressive but the ending fills you with glee. Pathology is a fine example of the latter.
Dr. Ted Grey (Milo Ventimiglia, who confused us by looking like Tobey Maguire) has managed to score both a rich fiancee and a plumb pathology residency. He gets off to a rocky start with the other residents, especially golden boy Jake Gallo (Tom Weston), but within about twenty minutes they’ve lured him into a game wherein each participant has to commit a murder and the others then have to guess how they did it.
Well, I say “lured.” It actually goes something like this:
Grey: “Oh my god, what are you, a serial killer?”
Gallo: “Okay, you know what, you can’t play.”
Grey: “NO FAIR!”
Grey, it turns out, is just as much of a misanthropic psychopath as the rest of them, which lends a little interest to the proceedings. Which is fortunate, because otherwise there’s not much interest to be had. Aside from Gallo’s skeevy girlfriend (Lauren Lee Smith), whose boobs get a considerable amount of screen time, almost none of the other characters are anything but glorified extras. (Literally, during one of the final scenes I was like “Hey, who’s that guy?” My daughter informed me that he’d been a member of the group the whole time. I’m glad she’s more observant than I am.)
Pathology takes on the immortal question: “Just how far can you push the crack-whore characterization while still having it be even remotely plausible that these people made it through medical school?” The answer, by the way, is “Not this far.”
Pathology isn’t a bad way to kill time on a slow weekend, but there’s not much to it. The movie spends way too much time establishing that the main characters are freaky in just about every way and not enough time on how they go about setting up the perfect murder, or indeed even solving the perfect murder, which you would think would be the point of the movie. How many scenes of budding pathologists smoking crack do we really need? The answer is a lot, apparently. Also, a tip for future filmmakers: scenes of kinky S&M sex where the use of acupuncture needles has made one of the participants look like a porcupine are neither hot nor disturbing, but they are good for a laugh. You do get bonus points for Wallace Stevens, though.
You know what would have been awesome? Scorching, screen-melting chemistry between the two leads whose conflict is supposed to drive the whole movie. Or, you know, any sort of chemistry at all. Anywhere. Between anyone. By half an hour in I’d have settled for a vinegar-and-baking-soda volcano.
So what’s the verdict? Two stars. Ventimiglia really should have been playing this role in a much better and more intelligent movie; he’s better than it deserves, and because of that his performance sits at a weird angle to the rest of the film. Weston is not better than it deserves, and indeed his gloriously scenery-devouring performance is pitch-perfect for the movie he’s in. I just would rather have been watching Ventimiglia’s movie instead.