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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Dead on Arrival, Review by Siraj Syed: Sex, corruption and corpses

Dead on Arrival, Review by Siraj Syed: Sex, corruption and corpses

A pharmaceutical sales representative is driving when he has a seizure and barely manages to stop his car and crawl out. Picked-up by a Sheriff on patrol and taken to a hospital, he is told that he has been poisoned and will die in the next 24 hours. Time to realise that you are just two minutes into the film, when the stage is already set for a noir thriller that is inspired by the 1950 classic but speaks the cinematic language of today, delving into the dark world of drugs, greed and forbidden desire.

In a single flashback, we learn that 12 hours earlier, Sam Collins, the rep, was in Louisiana to close the business deal of a lifetime, with the influential Dr. Alexander. He gets invited by the doctor to a party where wine and women are in abundance. The doctor signs the deal, and Sam has a good time. Next morning, he leaves early, and soon discovers that he has been poisoned, through a spiked drink. What’s worse,  there is no antidote. Sam needs answers, and staying at the hospital is not an option. He dodges the guarding Sheriff and escapes, unaware that his escape trail will be marked with a string of corpses, one of which might be his own...

DoA has Stephen C. Sepher in a triple role, as actor-writer-director. You might recall his 2015 effort, Heist, in which he starred alongside Robert De Niro, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Dave Bautista, an action thriller which he also wrote and produced. Here, he integrates noir elements like the Mob, sex, voodoo and cold-blooded murders, in an easy-flowing medley, with a clever whodunit twist waiting for you round the corner. Sepher keeps the characters credible, and even his hero is not given to unbelievable heroics.

Handsome, sweet-faced, and Emmy nominated, Billy Flynn got his big break in 2014, with the NBC drama series, Days of Our Lives. As Sam Collins, Dead on Arrival marks his first starring role in a feature film. Given just one day to live, and unravel the mystery, he has your sympathy from scene one. Also from TV is Christa B. Allen as the night club dancer Jesse, who tries to help Sam solve the jigsaw puzzle. Allen emanates both sex and sympathy.

Daniel Bernard Sweeney (Cutting Edge, Chi-Raq) and Nazo Bravo play the down-to-earth detectives on the case, with quiet commitment. Their banter about Armenians and Andre Agassi is good, understated humour. Watch out for Chris Mulkey (Whiplash) as Hans Dunkle.

Billy Slaughter (The Magnificent 7, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Billionaire Boys Club) is cast as an unusual looking, and even more unusual behaving, doctor, the reasons for which are manifest in the script. For himself, Sepher chooses a negative role, and enjoys being a bad guy. Adequate support comes from Tyson Sullivan and Lillo Brancato. As a nod to the 1950 version, Sepher has Maria O'Brien, daughter of lead actor Edmond O'Brien, in a cameo, as a suspicious neighbour. It’s an ensemble cast that comes together as an effective unit.

Dead on Arrival has also been called Blood River, and blood does flow time and again. What else do you expect when a debt-ridden doctor, a gun-toting mobster, a corrupt law officer and a sex maniac find themselves on the same page?

The thriller noire Dead on Arrival has arrived—Dead on Time!



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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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