Sunday, June 24, 2018

Prescription for Danger (Incendo Productions/Lifetime, 2018)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2018 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Alas, the movie Lifetime followed up with, Prescription for Danger, was much more formulaic: Ivy Fisher (Joanne Kelly) and Skyler Parsons (Genelle Williams) are partners in a Web site aimed at working women to give them advice on how to balance career and life, advice which needless to say the unmarried Ivy is unable to follow herself — she’s been known to stay in the office for a day and a half without sleep to finish a tweak to the Web site. On the eve of a major presentation to a couple of venture capitalists who are deciding whether or not to put $10 million into their company, Ivy spills some pills in the bathroom sink and, when she comes out, has a seizure and collapses just before she’s supposed to give the all-important presentation. Skyler fills in for her and they get the money, but meanwhile Ivy has been taken to the hospital, where she’s put in the care of Dr. Mark Ryan (Shaun Benson, easy on the eyes but not as drop-dead gorgeous as some of the Lifetime male villains). Dr. Ryan gives her oxycodone for her migraines but insists on doing an MRI as well, and he tells her the MRI reveals a “glioblastoma multiform,” a malignant brain tumor that, though it isn’t cancerous, is growing at such a rate it will kill her within 12 to 15 months. At a later visit Dr. Ryan tells her that the only alternatives are surgery — too risky for him to recommend it because of where the tumor is in relation to her scalp — or chemo, and having just lost her mom to cancer (mom, we learned later, actually committed suicide because she could no longer stand the painful side effects of chemo) Ivy won’t consider it herself.

Then Dr. Ryan tells her there’s an experimental drug being tried in Europe called VX 2043 (which sounds more like something you add to your gasoline to give your car better mileage) which isn’t FDA-approved, but he has a contact that can get it for him, only she’ll have to pay $12,000 a month for it and it will have to be in cash so there’s no record of him getting her an unapproved treatment for which he could lose his medical license. The two meet in all sorts of unusual locations, including her office and, eventually, her apartment, where they ultimately drift into an affair — and I give credit for writer James Phillips and director Caroline Labrèche making her, not him, the sexual aggressor even though we’ve been told earlier that there’s a previous woman patient of his suing him before the medical board and trying to get his license revoked for having similarly seduced her. After the genuine suspense of Did I Kill My Mother? this one was a return to typical Lifetime slovenliness — we know from the get-go who the good guy (or good girl, actually) is and who the bad guy is, though there’s some uncertainty as to what he’s after and why. We get him giving a Christine Conradt-style explanation that he married a young woman while he was still attending medical school, that she got a similar brain tumor and died within a year, and he’s still mourning her memory and that’s why he’s willing to risk his license and even his freedom to help her with an unapproved med, but later we find out via an Internet search conducted by Ivy’s partner Skyler (ya remember Ivy’s partner Skyler?) that that’s a lie, he’s never been married and he’s conducted this scam with others before.

Though she’s still alive at the fadeout, Skyler isn’t as lucky as the heroine’s African-American confidante in Did I Kill My Mother?; while she’s riding her bike to work one morning (how convenient!) she’s run down by a mysterious man in a car, and while Dr. Ryan has an alibi it turns out he hired someone else to do it, a middle-aged bald guy who looks like the Dick Tracy villain Cueball and was in thrall to Dr. Ryan because he was a drug addict and Ryan was supplying him — only Ryan knifes him to death after he threatens to reveal he not only attacked Skyler but earlier killed the complaining witness against him to the medical board and made it look like suicide. Prescription for Danger is one of those annoying Lifetime movies in which the villain’s behavior, cool and collected in the opening acts, becomes more floridly psychotic as the movie goes on, and it’s hard to believe anyone would think they could get away with that much killing. It ends in Dr. Ryan’s home, where he’s given Ivy a paralyzing drug and intends to force-feed her an overdose of oxycodone so it’ll look like just another accidental death of a pharmaceutical drug addict, only he’s delayed by a police officer named Fowler (Kent McQuaid, who looks like a younger version of the Addams Family’s butler Lurch), which gives Ivy time enough to recover enough to get out of the bed where Ryan left her, get to the edge of his staircase and push him down it when he returns to finish her off. There’s a fascinating final scene in which it turns out Dr. Ryan survived the fall — as Skyler survived her accident and gave Ivy the crucial clues as to what the doc was really up to — but ended up paralyzed and in a wheelchair, and Ivy visits him in the institution where he’s being held and torments him by pushing him to a particularly inaccessible place where he’ll be stuck. Prescription for Danger is an O.K. Lifetime movie but we do get the impression that we’ve seen it all before — and we don’t even get a soft-core porn scene of Shaun Benson and Joanne Kelly getting it on, though we do get a nice shot of them in bed together post-coitally and it includes a choice look-see of him shirtless.