Crown Vic


I guess that’s why they call it the blues…

(2019) Cop Drama (Screen MediaThomas Jane, Luke Kleintank, Josh Hopkins, David Krumholtz, Bridget Moynihan, Devon Workheiser, Scottie Thompson, Emma Ishta, James Andrew O’Connor, Shiloh Verrico, Alex Morf, Gregg Bello, Bernard David Jones, Hannah McKechnie, Chris Jarrell, Bruce R. Leader, Kathryn Schneider, Ginger Graham, Elizabeth Oddy, Marilyn Toro. Directed by Joel Souza

 

Since the days of Dragnet and “Just the facts, ma’am,” the way we view cops have changed. Once upon a time, they were our knights in blue, friendly neighborhood protectors who made sure that “To serve and protect” wasn’t just a motto. These days, cops are often viewed with suspicion, particularly by minorities and with some justification. Cops have become fallible and human; and not always admirable. We see the sensational failures rather than the neighborhood heroes. Both views are extreme. Neither is wrong.

Ray Mandel (Jane) is a 25-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department as a patrol officer. He has been given the task of being FTO (Field Training Officer) to a wet-behind-the-ears rookie, Nick Holland (Kleintank). Nick is idealistic, just out of the academy, newly married with a baby on the way. His somewhat hysterical wife calls him at regular intervals, terrified that something will happen to her baby daddy out there on the mean streets of Los Angeles.

In the course of a single night, the grizzled veteran will impart the wisdom of cops since time immemorial to his young protégé – “Trust in your equipment,” “If someone looks guilty, watch ‘em. If someone looks innocent, watch ‘em closely!!” The rookie soaks it all in but quickly discovers that things aren’t so cut and dried out on the streets. He may be riding in a black and white, but things certainly aren’t that way out there (see what I did there?) in the neighborhoods of El Lay, particularly with a trigger-happy pair of robbers on the loose as well as a detective whose ‘roid rage is about to explode into something much worse, as well as personal matters that will keep both the men in 20-Lincoln-14 on their toes.

Those who have been mesmerized by cop procedurals on TV (going back to the aforementioned Dragnet and up through such classics as Adam 12 and Starsky and Hutch up through more modern iterations which have been largely the province of the movies like Colors and End of Shift) will find familiar territory here. The film is set up as a series of vignettes that range from brutal and violent to dark comedy. Generally, Ray and Nick react pretty much the same way to each situation; Ray tells Nick to stay in the car, or behind the protection of the squad car’s door, and Nick essentially doing as he’s told.

The opening sequence depicting the robbers violent escape from a bank is shot creatively from the inside (and the side mirror) of the getaway car. It’s kinetic and works really nicely; sadly, the rest of the film isn’t quite as innovative. In fact, there’s a good deal of cliché going on here. It isn’t a terribly realistic depiction of the day-to-day life of patrol cops – but then again, it’s not meant to be – and at times credibility is stretched to the breaking point.

Much of what makes the movie a worthy rental (or viewing if it’s playing anywhere near you) is the performance of Jane as the world-weary Ray. Ray has nothing left but the job but he hasn’t lost all hope just yet. He still believes that he is making a difference, and that’s what sustains him. Jane is one of the steadiest actors around today; you won’t go wrong seeing one of his films.

This isn’t a breakthrough film by any stretch of the imagination. It ploughs familiar territory and doesn’t really do much beyond the opening sequence to make any sort of mark. Still, those who like cop films are going to be satisfied with this. It’s well-acted, well-plotted and keeps the viewer’s interest going throughout. A lot of much more heralded films can’t necessarily say the same.

REASONS TO SEE: The audience interest is kept up nicely. Jane does a solid job as the mentor cop.
REASONS TO AVOID: A little bit on the cliché side.
FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of profanity, sexual references, scenes of gory violence, brief full nudity and some drug use.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Crown Victoria was discontinued as a model in 2011. It has been replaced on most police forces by the Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus and/or Chevrolet Caprice.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/11/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 64% positive reviews: Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Training Day
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
I’m gonna make you love me

The Son of No One


Acting 101 is now in session with Professor Pacino.

Acting 101 is now in session with Professor Pacino.

(2011) Thriller (Anchor Bay) Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Tracy Morgan, Katie Holmes, Ray Liotta, Juliette Binoche, James Ransone, Jake Cherry, Ursula Parker, Brian Gilbert, Peter Tambakis, Simone Jones, Lemon Anderson, Ralph Rodriguez, Roger Guenveur Smith, Sean Cregan, Karen Christie-Ward, Pat Klernan, Gisella Marengo. Directed by Dito Montiel

New York City is a place of dreams. It is also a place of nightmares, of unrelenting grime and corruption. At least, that is how the movies have portrayed it – on the one hand the center of the universe, a place where romance magically happens. On the other, a hopeless cesspool of brutality, corrupt cops and junkies.

Jonathan White (Tatum) grew up in the projects of Long Island City. Like his departed dad, he has chosen to be a cop and lives with his wife Kerry (Holmes) and his epileptic daughter Charlie (Parker) on Staten Island, where he plies his trade.

He is less than thrilled to be re-assigned to his old neighborhood. Soon after he arrives, anonymous letters are being sent to Loren Bridges (Binoche), the crusading editor of a storefront newspaper resurrecting a decades-old pair of murders and alleging that the police have covered up that the crimes were committed by a cop. This is particularly distressing to Jonathan since it was he that was responsible for those killings, although he wasn’t a cop at the time. In fact, he was just a kid (Cherry) who was defending his own life from a pair of violent junkies. His best friend Vinnie (Gilbert) witnessed the crimes and Jonathan thinks that he is likely the source of those letters. Vinnie has grown up (Morgan) into a mentally unstable man who can’t escape his own demons, many of them conjured up when the very same junkies molested him as a child.

These letters are making Captain Mathers (Liotta) who happens to be Jonathan’s boss more than a little nervous. In post-9/11 New York the cops need all the good will they can get and this is the kind of scandal that might set the public against the force. Mathers – who knows about the cover-up since he and Detective Stanford (Pacino) who was the partner of Jonathan’s late father helped cover up the evidence and made the case go away – wants Jonathan to kill Vinnie and Jonathan is considering it.

Things start to get much tenser for Jonathan when the reporter is murdered after meeting with Jonathan. Jonathan’s psychotic partner Prudenti (Ransone) lets Jonathan know that if he doesn’t take care of the situation, Jonathan will be framed for the murder of the reporter as well as the original murders years ago. With his situation deteriorating and Jonathan beginning to fall apart, the likelihood of an explosive confrontation becomes more and more likely.

Montiel directed the autobiographical A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints which was actually a very good film. He has shown great promise, particularly in regards to his obvious love-hate relationship with New York. One might say that these are honest warts-and-all depictions but while it is clear he bears a deep affection for the Big Apple, he seems to have a feeling of revulsion towards its less glamorous side.

He has assembled an amazing cast but unfortunately they don’t really rise above the material which you might expect. Pacino almost phones it in and you get the sense that he was interested more in the paycheck than the performance. Binoche, one of the world’s most marvelous actresses, is an odd casting choice. She gamely soldiers on as you might expect she would but one gets the sense she really doesn’t know what to do with the part. Morgan on the other hand is best known as a comic actor; he is surprisingly adept at this dramatic role and has some of the best moments in the film.

Tatum, who has finally shown some signs that he is more than just a pretty face (like Montiel, he is an ex-model) although this was filmed during the period when his acting style might best be summed up as wooden. We don’t get a sense of Jonathan’s wracking guilt or his inner turmoil although the commentary track by Montiel alludes to it. Sadly, he doesn’t show much more tension than a high school honors student approaching a mid-term algebra quiz.

There is a good deal of ugliness here although there are some moments that are surprisingly powerful (the final scene between Jonathan and Vinnie for example) they are outnumbered by those which don’t make sense. For example, the murders were clearly a matter of self-defense committed by a minor. Jonathan committed no crime; there was therefore no need to cover anything up. If anything, the only crime that was committed was the act of covering up.

Montiel is a terrific director and writer but this is certainly a misstep. I’d recommend his previous two films ahead of this. I hope this is just a one-time setback and not an indication that his creative well has run dry.

WHY RENT THIS: A chance to watch a fine cast slumming.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A bit confusing. Lacks logical sense.

FAMILY VALUES: Lots of violence and bad language and some brief sexuality of the disturbing kind.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Robert De Niro was originally cast as Detective Stanford but he had to drop out of the production and Pacino was cast instead.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $30,680 on a $15M production budget.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Copland

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: Don Jon