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TNT's "Race for Time" looks at a fictional case of body-parts brokerage.

Parts for Sale

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Don't dig too deeply into the meaning of "Race Against Time." You don't have to go back any further than "Damn Yankees," the Broadway and movie musical, to find one of the more recent incarnations of its hoary premise. Then do a Web search on the famous Dr. Death, Jack Kervorkian.

"Damn Yankees" is about selling your soul to the devil for a bit of temporal gain. Dr. Death is all about assisted suicide. "Race Against Time" is about selling your life — and your body parts — for transplants.

In "Race," it's 2008, and high-rise construction worker Jim Gabriel (Eric Roberts) needs $300,000 to buy a vaccine to save his young son's life. According to the movie's plot, the Supreme Court has ruled that the right to death is just as legitimate as the right to life, and a company called Lifecorps has set up shop to harvest organs. Just to prove that it's a sensitive sort of company, Lifecorps works on the "pay now, deliver later" plan. It'll pay you for your dead body, but it'll let you live a year so you'll have time to enjoy the money. Then Lifecorps whacks you. And just so it'll be sure to get what it has paid for, Lifecorps gives you a lovely bracelet to wear. And because it's really not all that sensitive after all, the bracelet contains a tracking device in case you decide to take the money and run.

So guess what happens.

OK. I'll save you the trouble.

While Gabriel is off selling his soul to Lifecorps, his son dies. And the company's executives know it. But they don't tell Gabriel. So he asks for his money back. And the company gives it to him, and the movie's over.

Oops. Sorry. I lied. What really happens is that the company refuses to give Gabriel his money back, so he throws it in the face of Lifecorps' CEO — and then he runs.

If you've ever seen "Damn Yankees" — or even if you haven't — it's not too hard to figure out how it all ends. In a decent movie with something resembling a plot, it would be the how and not the what that matters. But trust me on this: Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, who wrote "Race," wouldn't know a decent plot if the devil himself offered it to them.

"Race" has only two things going for it, and if neither one interests you, cross this movie off your "to watch" list. First, Roberts gets to do all those fun things that actors do in action dramas — such as jumping off a skyscraper to save another guy's life, fighting with bad guys on top of an elevator cage, playing with futuristic weapons and getting the pretty girl (Sarah Wynter). Second, Stargate Films, the special-effects company, has created a pretty nifty cityscape of the future for Roberts and Wynter to play in.

But frankly, "Race" is so bad I'd prefer to sit through "Damn Yankees" a few more times. Even the Jerry Lewis touring-company version.

And I'm not even French.



"Race Against Time" airs at 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and midnight on July 23 on TNT. Repeats are set for July 25, 28 and 30 and Aug. 5 and 7.

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