Dr. David Krane (Ray Liotta) arrives at a crime scene, an apparent drug store robbery. Where he finds a piece of evidence, a rolled up paper match book, that reminds him of a similar match book found at his wife's, Mary Krane, crime scene. Convinced that the killer is the same man who killed his wife, Dr Krane approaches the detective, Don Bressler (Peter Coyote) on the case. Dr. Krane shows Det. Bressler photos of the matchbooks found at both scenes. Det. Bressler ask Dr Krane what he wants him to do, and Dr. Krane asks him to question the suspect in the current case about his Mary's murder. Det. Bressler agrees, but tells Dr. Krane, "Sometimes you have to let it go."
Later, Dr. Krane goes to a dinner where Dr. Martha Briggs gives a lecture on her experiment to transfer memories via cerebral spinal fluid. After the lecture Dr Krane makes an appointment with Dr. Briggs to go over her research. Dr, Briggs is then approached by an unidentified woman who tells her that Dr. Krane was a suspect in his wife's murder, and if the police department had not botched the investigation he would be on death row.
The following day, at Dr. Briggs office, she goes over the experimental procedure. She states that neuro-peptides are used in forming memories and can be retrieved from Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF). However, the peptides themselves are not enough to transfer memories; Therefore, she has created a serum designed to facilitate the memory transfer process. however, the serum is not enough and an external stimulus similar to the memory must also be present for the memories to successfully imprint on the recipient. She gives Dr. Krane a demonstration and they discuss the formula and side effects of the procedure. Dr. Krane suggests using nitroglycerin to alleviate the side effects, but Dr. Brigs mentions that that would only be a short term fix, and the long term complications would still exist. Dr, Krane inquires as to when human trials might start, and she explains she a long way away from that, at least 7 years. Dr. Krane says he would be willing to volunteer to try the serum, and Dr. Briggs responds that not only would it be dangerous, it would be unethical. Dr. Krane apologizes and then leaves.
Later that evening Dr. Krane retrieves the sample of CFS from his wife's autopsy, and then breaks into Dr. Briggs office. He then goes back to his house which is filled with crime scene photos, and other pieces of evidence from his wife's murder, including the taped outline of where her body was found. Dr. Krane injects himself with the serum, and has a memory flash of the night of his wife's murder, but is unable to see the killers face. Dr Krane then returns to the lab, retrieves the CSF from the female victim at the drug store. Dr Krane drives to the drug store crime scene where he then injects himself, again, with the serum. During this memory flashback Dr. Krane is finally able to see the killers face. He then returns to the police station where he meets with a police sketch artist and tries to create a police sketch of the killer. The sketch artist does a poor job, and forces Dr. Krane to draw the picture himself. Using the sketch Dr Krane and his friend and colleague, Curtis Avery (David Paymer), enter the sketch into a computer program that generates a searchable photo of the killer. During this process Dr. Krane has a shocking reaction to the photo that causes a nose bleed.
Dr. Briggs then confronts Dr. Krane about the break in and the theft of her serum, he explains that it works and that is nothing like a true memory as much as you experience the memory as if it were happening to you. Dr. Briggs is worried about side effects and insists that Dr. Krane receive a physical at her office. Dr. Krane agrees to come over later that afternoon, and Dr. Briggs insists they do it right then. The two then go back to Dr. Briggs office at the University, where she notes that there has been "significant" damage to Dr. Kranes heart, but that the nitroglycerin did indeed alleviate the heart palpations of the initial injection. Dr. Kranes beeper goes off, and he uses the phone in Dr. Briggs office to call his Curtis. Curtis says they got a hit, and that the guy, Eddie Dutton, has a long criminal history, including drugs and several murders for hire. Dr. Krane asks for his last known address, which his Curtis gives to him over the phone.
Dr. Krane goes to leave, and Dr Briggs insists she come with him. Dr. Krane refuses, but Dr. Briggs threaten to call the police and Dr. Krane relents. The two travel to a seedy motel where Dr. Krane ask the manager if he knows where Dr Krane can find Eddie Dutton. The manager asks if he is a cop," to which Dr Krane replies, no and the manager tells him to get lost. On the way out of the hotel Dr Krane sees Eddie in the elevator, and has another overreaction to seeing him. Eddie asks him, "What are you looking at?" and then makes a disparaging remark about Dr. Krane maybe being homosexual. Dr. Krane runs down the stairs after Eddie. Dr. Briggs begins to following Dr. Krane in his car and is yelling at him to stop he is overworking his heart. Dr Briggs, who was not paying attention to her driving, hits a parked car which causes a scene. Eddie sees Dr. Krane is following him and starts to run. Dr. Krane pursues Eddie, who pulls out a gun and start to fire at Dr. Krane. Eddie runs into an alley, where the two struggle and Dr. Krane ends up with Eddie's gun. Eddie keeps running, finally running into a catholic church where mass is being held. Eddie Grabs a young boy and holds him hostage with a knife, Dr Krane is trying to talk Eddie down when the police arrive. Eventually Det. Bressler shoots Eddie killing him, and Dr. Krane is upset because he did not get to question Eddie.
After the scenes calms down a bit, Dr Krane is confronted about his erratic behavior by his supervisor who fires him. Dr Krane heads back to the Police station saying he needs to get a few things. As he enters the station he heads into the men's room, and asks Dr Briggs to wait for him in the waiting area. He then heads from the men's room to the autopsy room where he places a fake call for Curtis, so that he can get access to Eddies CSF. He steals a sample of Eddies CSF. Dr. Briggs and Dr. Krane head back to doctor Krane's house so that Dr Krane can get some sleep. Unable to sleep Dr. Krane heads back to the main house and injects himself with the serum, using Eddie's CSF, one more time. Dr. Krane has a flash of what appears to be Eddie having rough sex with a woman, this woman may be Mary. In the midst of the memory flashback Dr. Krane makes enough noise to attract Dr. Briggs. While reliving the killers memories Dr Krane inadvertently attacks and begins to choke Dr. Briggs. During the flashback Dr Krane sees that Eddie notices Dr. Krane returning to the house and Eddie flees, apparently before Mary is actually dead. Dr Krane continues to act out the memory fleeing the house, as Dr Briggs is frantically searching for nitroglycerin. She finds Dr Krane at the bottom of the porch stairs and administers the nitroglycerin to him, where he explains that Eddie did not kill his wife, and that he had come home drunk that night and passed out in the front yard while his wife was being murdered. Dr Krane opens up about how he was a drunk and the marriage was on the rocks. He mentions that when his wife died she was 5 weeks pregnant.
The next morning Dr. Briggs goes to Curtis and they discuss some type of test, Curtis reluctantly agrees. Later as Dr. Briggs is running the DNA for paternity Dr. Krane walks in and is angry that she would test the paternity without consulting him. The paternity test shows the baby is not Dr. Kranes, and Dr Briggs says that the man who killed Mary might be the father of the child. She then asks Dr. Krane if he has any idea who it might be.
Dr. Krane rushes over and confronts his Mary's sister Kelly (Kim Cattrall). They verbally spar, and Dr. Krane says he will go to the cops, and Kelly says she won't allow him to rob her, Mary, of her dignity, and that Mary was having an affair with a police detective. Dr. Krane takes this new evidence to Det. Bressler, while talking to Det. Bressler Dr. Krane begins to have flashbacks of an arrest and interrogation of Eddie. These flashbacks cause a heart attack and Dr. Krane is rushed to the hospital. Dr. Krane begins to have flashbacks of the night and subsequent events of his Mary's murder. While Dr. Krane and Dr. Briggs are at the hospital the janitor at the university enters Dr. Briggs office to mop, setting off an explosive device that destroys a large portion of the university building.
After Dr. Krane recovers, Det. Stewart Gleick (Christopher McDonald) the original detective on Mary's case, approaches Dr. Krane in the hospital saying that he asked around and a detective Boddner, might be the guy. The problem is that Det. Boddner tried to commit suicide on the same day Mary was killed, but ended up in a coma, instead of dying. Dr. Krane and Dr. Briggs go to the hospice where Det. Boddner is being kept, and take a sample of his CSF, so that Dr. Krane can experience his memories. Dr. Krane and Dr Briggs argue about who should take the injection due to Dr. Krane's weak heart and recent heart attack. Dr. Krane agrees to allow Dr. Briggs to take the injection, because Det. Boddner committed suicide Dr. Krane says he is not taking any chances and he tapes Dr. Briggs to the seat. With Dr. Briggs immobilized Dr. Krane injects himself. He confirms that his wife was in fact having an affair with Det. Boddner. Mary met Det. Boddner who was a witness against Det. Bressler, who was a dirty cop. As Dr. Krane is reliving these memories, Det. Bressler arrives at the house and begins to set the scene to kill Dr. Krane and Dr. Briggs, by lighting a fire. Kelly arrives at the house with kids, just as Det. Bressler is about to kill them, Dr. Krane uses this distraction to attack Det. Bressler, they fight. Dr. Krane gets the upper hand and beats Det. Bressler unconscious, then he pulls Dr. Briggs out of the house, and the rushes in and saves Det. Bressler. He then goes back into the burning house to retrieve the micro cassette recorder Dr. Briggs uses for dictation.
The movie ends with Dr. Krane in a comatose state. He imagines he is with his wife. Dr. Briggs explains that his wounds should heal, but he is not responding mentally. Det. Gleick tells Dr. Krane that they got Bressler, and that if anything changes to let him know. Dr Briggs says he could snap out of his coma at any time. The scene then shifts to Dr. Krane imagining playing with his kids, he looks back over his shoulder and his wife turns and fades away.Ray Liotta as Dr. David Krane
Linda Fiorentino as Dr. Martha Briggs
Peter Coyote as Don Bresler
Christopher McDonald as Stewart Gleick
Kim Coates as Eddie Dutton
David Paymer as Curtis Avery
Kim Cattrall as Kelly
William B. Davis as Dr. Smoot
Ray Liotta told an interviewer some anecdotes about filming in the morgue:
Q. Since you spend a fair amount of time in the morgue in Unforgettable, do you have any crazy coroner's tales to relate?
A. The morgue in L.A. was horrible, scary. The smell is just unbelievable. A couple of people who work there wanted to take pictures. So they took photos with bodies behind me.
Q. You mean, they took photos of you, Ray Liotta, the movie star, in the city morgue?
A. Yeah, that happened to me in two other rather strange places. For Unlawful Entry, these cops were looking for a body part. I was on-call with them, and so sure enough, they took a photograph of me with the body bag in the background. With Article 99, I played a surgeon. I did some research on open-heart surgery, and the nurses were "Oh, yeah, you're Shoeless Joe from Field of Dreams. Can we take a picture?" So there was this patient, her chest wide open, and they're taking pictures of me.
The film had an estimated budget of $18 million and earned $2,780,278 in the United States.
The film received negative reviews from critics and holds a 22% "rotten" rating on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 27 reviews, with an average score of 4.4 out of 10.
Janet Maslin, writing in The New York Times, said, "Though it's well made, Unforgettable is also gimmicky, with too much of the plot revolving around voyeuristic tricks. Tapping into the same kind of virtual reality gambit seen in Strange Days, Unforgettable deals with one person's ability to borrow the experiences of others... Insanely far-fetched as this is, it's hardly dull. Mr. Dahl's visual imagination is in fine form, even if his storytelling shows no great eagerness to escape from the B-movie sphere."
Roger Ebert gave the film one and a half stars, calling it "a mess." "In the annals of cinematic goofiness, Unforgettable deserves a place of honor. This is one of the most convoluted, preposterous movies I've seen — a thriller crossed with lots of Mad Scientist stuff, plus wild chases, a shoot-out in a church, a woman taped to a chair in a burning room, an exploding university building, adultery, a massacre in a drugstore, gruesome autopsy scenes and even a moment when a character's life flashes before her eyes, which was more or less what was happening to me by the end of the film. What went wrong?... The actors play this material perfectly straight, as if they thought this was a serious movie, or even a good one. That makes it all the more agonizing. At least in the old horror films, the actors knew how marginal the material was, and worked a little irony into their performances. Here everybody acts as if they're in something deep, like a Bergman film, or Chicago Hope," said Ebert.
The Miami Herald granted the film two out of four stars: "But there's little joy in watching the puzzle come together, since the script, by newcomer Bill Geddie, cheats. It's impossible for the viewer to solve the case alongside Krane: The movie withholds crucial information until a revelation-packed denouement. On a purely visceral level, the movie works better. At its best, Unforgettable recalls prime Hitchcock in the way it unearths great suspense in familiar situations, such as a long footchase and a supermarket robbery. The performances are strong, too. Liotta is an ideal choice: Even at his most sympathetic, he seems capable of great evil — he has the eyes of a madman — but the movie settles the issue of his culpability too early... Dahl has made his name making movies intelligent and cynical; this one is neither. It's a genre piece that buries a terrific premise under a pile of contrivances. It's also a first for Dahl: a movie that's more fun to look at than it is to think about."
Reviewer Bryant Frazer gave the film a C- and wrote, "Liotta and Fiorentino look kind of sleepy throughout the whole proceeding... but still, it has its moments, including the very ending, that really work — as if somewhere, buried inside this mess, there's a good movie trying to get out."
Chris Kridler of The Baltimore Sun did like the film, calling it "a pretty twisted story, contrived but entertaining."
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle described director Dahl as "a master of inciting fear and dread" and the film as "a striking piece of filmmaking... For a good 45 minutes of its two-hour running time, Unforgettable has the viewer in a state of oppressive tension. The rest of the time you're just nervous."