When the Bullet Hits the Bone (1996)

Paging Dr. Jeff Wincott! Paging Dr. Jeff Wincott! There’s an emergency room full of patients with gun shot wounds and overdoses! Diagnosis? Unchecked drug dealing in New York! Treatment? One personal war on drugs and call Dr. Jeff once you’ve taken his elderly parents prisoner and chopped off his daddy’s finger!

It’s clear from the way the patient, When the Bullet Hits the Bone, presents that things are pretty much terminal and all Dr. Jeff can do is try to make the audience comfortable while this sickly film thrashes, pukes, shits itself and just generally dies an excruciating death over the course of its eighty minute life.

Unfortunately, while Dr. Jeff is good at appearing in terrible kickboxing movies you’ve never heard of (Open Fire, Mission of Justice), the bedside manner he exhibits in this serious, message-based movie, makes you wish Dr. Kevorkian was around to put you out of your misery as you attempt to slog through a lethal combination of cheesy filmmaking techniques (slow motion, whirling camera, generic music, film noir-style voiceover where Dr. Jeff whines about how hard his job is), deadly non-acting, action anorexia and mentally stunted story.

Dr. Jeff has been working the ER at a big city hospital for years. And he’s the only guy in the whole ER who gives a damn! He’s refusing to give up on dead patients, fighting with staff to save lives, providing emergency trauma treatment right in the freaking hallway and even throwing his biohazard-filled rubber gloves all over in righteous anger when he can’t do enough to save someone! Clearly, something has to give! How much can one caring stud surgeon take?

Turns out not that much because the next thing we know, Dr. Jeff is suddenly stumbling through New York City drinking out of a brown paper bag! And all this takes place in the opening minutes!

Normally, I praise a movie for compressing boring crap like character development and backstory because it usually means the director is anxious to get to the parts where guys are engaging in kickboxing death tournaments or tearing the city a new asshole in a quest for vengeance. When the Bullet Hits the Bone has the cinematic equivalent of wasting disease though because what follows is lots of wasted time talking about drugs and computer disks, Dr. Jeff aimlessly getting involved in fighting the local drug lord (Turner) and saving Turner’s girlfriend from him, and chronic martial art mayhem malnutrition!

What?!? Why is Dr. Jeff not writing prescriptions for spinning head kicks, snapped arms, caved in knees, and broken necks? Perhaps Jeff Wincott was trying to break out of the whole “C-List Kickboxing Video Star” mode with frequent collaborate directer/writer Damian Lee with this drama, but if you’re pretty good at making pleasantly awful low-budget action films, why mess with the modest success you’ve been enjoying? And why think that Damian Lee who also made Fatal Combat and Street Law with you is your ticket to respectability?

If the story hadn’t felt like it was lurching randomly here and there like a seizure-riddled fat guy, the lack of action wouldn’t have been so painful. As it is though, the story’s dependence of chance encounters, unexplained motivations and story elements that are promptly forgotten about once introduced only enhance how awful everything else is.

For instance, Dr. Jeff happens into an alley where Turner’s girlfriend is being harassed by one of Turner’s henchmen. Dr. Jeff tries to intervene and gets shot for his troubles. As he lays near death, he drops his wallet down a sewer grate declaring that Dr. Jeff is dead. Yet later in the film, everybody knows who he is and he’s leaving prescription bottles lying around his hotel room with his name and his father’s name (the prescribing doctor) on it, the whole “man with no identity” dropped with little fanfare.

Dr. Jeff survives and stays with a nurse while he recovers after Turner’s men try to kill him in the hospital. That absolutely none of this is reported to police or that Dr. Jeff doesn’t leave the nurse’s house for a more comprehensive medical facility is just one of the many dimwitted developments in the film. Even more dimwitted is the plot is pushed forward when Turner’s men just happen to drive by where Dr. Jeff is standing somewhere in the city. Shootout follows and Dr. Jeff is recovered enough to take the fight to Turner!

But how does he get to Turner or even know who he is after? He remembers the license plate of the guys who shot him and bribes a guy at the DMV to run the plates and it comes back to Turner! How do you get to be the biggest drug lord in the city if you are sending out vehicles registered to you full of your thugs shooting people? And it feels like being unnecessarily pedantic to point out the ridiculousness of the direct involvement of a corrupt senator with an even more corrupt southern accent.

A giant, poorly-filmed shootout serves as the anti-climax to things along with a resolution that somehow sees Dr. Jeff win the war against drugs. The entire project is a big misguided bore to the extent that you end up rooting for the bad guys to keep chopping fingers off just so you don’t slip into a coma from aggravated disinterest. And this is the sort of film where the finger chopping was the most inspired part of the movie. When Turner was going to use Dr. Jeff’s severed finger to trigger a car bomb to kill Dr. Jeff’s parents, I was impressed. But this is also the sort of film, where Turner is interrupted before he can detonate it. Prognosis: terminal incompetence with late stage tedium.

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