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MOVIE REVIEW : Psychiatrist Caught Up in Murder Mystery 'Passion'


Maybe the third time Scott Bakula plays an L.A. psychiatrist will be the charm. He got knocked off early on in "Color of Money," and now in "A Passion to Kill," a relentlessly routine psychological murder mystery, he's done in by a lackluster script.

Bakula's Dr. David Lawson receives a double whammy when he meets the beautiful, regal Diana (Chelsea Field), the bride of his best friend Jerry Chamberlain (John Getz). On the one hand, Diana rapidly displays scary mood swings that leave her consumed with brief, perplexing outbursts of rage, and on the other, she attracts David profoundly. Despite the repeated warnings of a friendly colleague (France Nuyen), David allows himself to become swiftly ensnared in an affair with the woman he's suppsed to be unofficially counseling at the urgent request of her husband.

Soon the corpses start piling up, and the question becomes simple: Is Diana a crazy woman going around knocking off every man who makes an unwelcome pass at her or is she being set up? Director Rick King keeps us guessing, but he can't keep us caring; David and Diana are too underwritten, too uninteresting, to involve us despite Bakula and Field's best efforts. There's no doubt that David is caught up in a grand passion, but that's no excuse for him and Diana to be such glum characters. The result is that Sheila Kelley, as David's ex-girlfriend, becomes the film's most sparkling presence. This is a sleek, painstaking production with great-looking stars and settings, but its Sunset 5 engagement seems but a stopover on the way to the video store.

* MPAA rating: R, for strong sexuality, and some violence and language . Times guidelines: The sex is fairly steamy, and definitely not for youngsters ; the violence and language are not excessive for the genre .

'A Passion to Kill'

Scott Bakula: Dr. David Lawson

Chelsea Field: Diana Chamberlain

Sheila Kelley: Beth

John Getz: Jerry Chamberlain

An A-Pix Entertainment release of a Rysher Entertainment presentation. Director Rick King. Producer Bruce Cohn Curtis. Executive producers Keith Samples, William Hart. Screenplay by William Delligan. Cinematographer Paul Ryan. Editor David H. Lloyd. Costumes Barbara Palmer. Music Robert Sprayberry. Production designer Ivo Cristante. Set decorator Tim Collohan. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

* In limited release at the Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd. (at Crescent Heights Boulevard), West Hollywood. (213) 848-3500.

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