TBS Medical Thriller Delivers 'Heart'burn

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Dead in a Heartbeat, TBS Superstation's self-described "medical thriller," is a suspenseful cat-and-mouse game between a mad bomber and a bombsquad expert—though it occasionally skips a beat or two.

The original movie is bolstered by the performances of Judge Reinhold, Timothy Busfield and Penelope Ann Miller.

The bomber with a twist is Zachary Franklin (Busfield), a deranged man who sentences several people to death by pacemaker to avenge what he sees as a heart surgeon's botched operation on his young son.

The hero in this battle of wits is Lt. Tom Royko (Reinhold), a 15-year bomb-squad veteran and single father whose own son Troy becomes a target of the madman—whom we don't see until 45 minutes into the drama.

Both Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop
) and Busfield (The West Wing) play against type, while Miller (Carlito's Way) portrays Dr. Gillian Hayes, the self-assured cardiac surgeon with an icy attitude who gradually warms to Royko.

We see the bomber's handiwork early and often—the body count hits three within the first half-hour—but his booby-trapped pacemakers, despite exploding inside the victims' chests, leave the surrounding area remarkably bloodless.

Executive producer David Paulson, who produced the action-thriller Passenger 57, only manages to make the team's search for possible suspects and the bomber's modus operandi mildly interesting. That process is executed far better on CBS'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
. Similarly, the operating-room sequences lack the fast-paced, heart-stopping drama to which we've become accustomed on NBC's ER.

Franklin's threat to kill 14 victims on his son's birthday sets Royko and his team on a wild goose chase that allows him to carry out his real plot: kidnap Troy.

There are two troubling scenes involving children—one in which Franklin imbeds a pacemaker in Troy's chest and the other when the surgeon removes the device from a boy at school, only to see a schoolteacher become a victim.

Franklin tricks Dr. Hayes into becoming a hostage and wires her to set off Troy's implant. (Don't ask us to explain how.) The madman tells Royko that he kidnapped Troy as his final victim so that "finally someone will feel what I feel."

Even with the victims of Franklin's heart attacks exploding around them, romance manages to bud between Royko and Hayes, but its goofy payoff at the end may be bypassed by all but the most heartiest viewers.

Dead in a Heartbeat, previously slated for a January debut, will bow March 3.

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