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D.O.A. (1988 film)

D.O.A. is a 1988 American neo-noir[2] crime-thriller film and a remake of the 1949 film noir of the same name. While it shares the same premise, it has a different story and characters. The film was directed by Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton, and scripted by Charles Edward Pogue. The writers of the original film, Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene, share story credit with Pogue. It stars Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, and Charlotte Rampling. The movie was filmed in Austin, Texas and San Marcos, Texas.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnnabel Jankel
Rocky Morton
Produced byIan Sander
Laura Ziskin
Screenplay byCharles Edward Pogue
Story byCharles Edward Pogue
Russell Rouse
Clarence Greene
Music byChaz Jankel
CinematographyYuri Neyman
Edited byRaja Gosnell
Michael R. Miller
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • March 18, 1988 (1988-03-18)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$29 million
Box office$12,706,478[1]


A man staggers into a police station to report a murder. When the desk sergeant asks who was murdered, he answers: "I was."

That man is Professor Dexter Cornell (Dennis Quaid), who then sits down to video-tape his account.

Thirty-six hours previously, Cornell is on campus. He is a college professor, was once a promising writer, made his name and is secure in his tenure, but he has spent the last four years going through the motions and playing it safe. "Publish or perish" is the contrasting rule of university politics and Cornell helps his friend Hal Petersham (Daniel Stern) with his first book.

While Cornell is in his office, a promising student, Nick Lang (Robert Knepper), jumps off a building right outside his office window in an apparent suicide. This, coupled with the depressing Christmas season, unseasonably hot weather, and a pending divorce with his estranged wife Gail (Jane Kaczmarek) whom he suspects was having an affair with Lang, leads Cornell to seek out the local bars for a night of heavy drinking. There he meets admiring student Sydney Fuller (Meg Ryan) and they proceed to get drunk.

The next morning, Cornell, feeling his sickness is more than just a hangover, stops by the campus medical clinic for a checkup. After running some tests, they discover that he has been poisoned and has 36 hours to live. An incredulous Cornell staggers out to try to make sense of it all.

Aided by Fuller, whom he kidnaps by super-gluing himself to her arm, he attempts to recreate the events of the previous night hoping to discover who could have murdered him. The list of suspects includes his wife, who is also the victim of a murder, which the police make half-hearted efforts to pin on Cornell.

It is learned that Lang was not a suicide but was also murdered. Cornell also suspects Lang's mentor Mrs. Fitzwaring (Charlotte Rampling), Bernard (Christopher Neame) the Fitzwarings' chauffeur and Graham Corey (Jay Patterson), a jealous co-worker.

In the end, at the police station, Cornell has solved the crime. His friend Hal had read and was so impressed by Nick Lang's manuscript that he decided to kill Nick and steal the novel for himself. However, this involved killing anyone who knew that Nick was the original author, including Dexter. After a scuffle, Dexter shoots Hal who then falls out his office window. Dexter resigns himself to his fate.



Box officeEdit

D.O.A. had a strong opening weekend, debuting at No. 3 at the US box office.[3] By the end of its run, the film earned a total of $12.7 million in domestic sales.[1]

Critical responseEdit

D.O.A. opened to mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 61% based on reviews from 18 critics.[4] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B-" on scale of A to F.[5]

Film critic Roger Ebert liked the film, calling it a "witty and literate thriller".[6]

Caryn James of The New York Times called it "one of the season's biggest disappointments".[7]


  1. ^ a b "D.O.A. (1988)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  2. ^ Silver, Alain; Ward, Elizabeth; eds. (1992). Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (3rd ed.). Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5
  3. ^ Voland, John (March 22, 1988). "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: New Blood Refreshes Top Five". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 17, 2017.
  4. ^ "D.O.A. (1988)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  5. ^ "D.O.A. (1998) B-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2019-07-15.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 18, 1988). "D.O.A." Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2019-07-14.
  7. ^ Caryn, James (March 18, 1988). "Review/Film; 'D.O.A.,' Racing Death". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-31.

External linksEdit