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20 Lionsgate (DVD), ASIN B0002DB5K4

This movie deconstructs the hard-boiled detective, starting with her red corpuscles. How long will Inspector Lindsay Boxer (Tracy Pollan) live with a rare blood disease? Six months, maybe. With this deadline rushing her endgame, priorities jam for first place in her downsized calendar.

dvd: first to die Mad passionate love knocks on her door in the character of Captain Christopher Raleigh (Gil Bellows). As her closest confident (Pam Grier) tells her: "Oh, he is fine, fine, fine, fine, fine!" If bold brown eyes and public relations talent hold the keys to her heart, our heroine should be on Cloud Nine. Who can guarantee that this knight in shining armor would find her, given fifty years or more?

Friendship offers to hold her hand -- and provide medical referrals, too. In this manner, the Women's Murder Club begins in this made-for-TV movie. Her professional colleagues ostensibly collaborate on solving mysteries. Their overall function remains supplying the support of an extended family. To one member only, Boxer commits her deadly timeframe. Whose death they investigate becomes an open question.

To keep our heroine on her toes, two villains enter the scene: an intrepid journalist (Carly Pope) and an even more intrepid novelist (Robert Patrick). The former shadows Boxer for the ultimate prize -- uncovering the identity of the Bride and Groom Serial Killer. The latter writes the story before it happens, turning lives into leads.

The journalist keeps bungling into crime scenes. She looks for stories, but remains blind to assaults waged beneath the skin. Professionalism turns both crusaders into actresses. If these characters compete for the title of "hard-boiled," though, the newspaper reporter wins. To complete her assignments, she becomes ally or alky in a New York Times heartbeat.

To her credit, Little Miss Oscar stays far away from the most dangerous character of all -- Mr. World Famous Novelist. Tipping its hat to Stephen King, the script suggests that this writer means to compete with the creator of Carrie (1976), The Shining (1980) Cujo (1983), Misery (1990), and Dreamcatcher (2003). This challenger never saw The Dark Half (1993), though; he just doesn't grasp how the Master buries his competition.

Our heroine earns respect here by never saying "Die." As the referee standing between fiction and nonfiction, she toes a fine line. Writers from both realms tempt her, threaten her and stalk her. She not only supplies their material -- she becomes it. So the movie explores the territory of Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello. Only here, one character contests the right to the last word

Engrossed in killings, our heroine forgets her own fate. Do murder mysteries thus rescue us from fear and self-centeredness? Like a cat with nine lives, this film piles on alternative endings. All of them distract everyone from hospitals and insurance. For the best six months of one woman's life, see this movie -- and pick your poison.

Meg Curtis

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