Top critical review
Another "bad" cop, Hollywood style
on August 13, 2003
I thought this was a good outing for Kurt Russell, who I have always felt was an underrated actor. He is very solid in the film, turning in an edgy yet at times nuanced performance.
The problems in the film lay elsewhere.
The film is about a supposedly crooked, violent racist cop that sees the light and, in some measure, makes amends. This is problem number one. His conversion from hard-bitten head breaker to reformer is much too sudden. Russell does an admirable job in trying to make this transition, but I got the feeling the film went from being realistic to a liberal "gee, wouldn't it be cool if this happened to this bad cop" kind of scenario. People just don't change that suddenly, particularly not career police officers that have dealt with the worst society has to offer day in and day out. Someday, somehow, I would like to see a Hollywood picture where a tough, head-breaking cop simply stays that way throughout the course of the picture and does not "seek redemption" or come to a violent, "deserved" end.
Second problem was that, as is always the case in Hollywood these days, all the major black characters are noble, all the white characters, except for the young, whiny partner Kurt Russel's character is saddled with, are evil and racist (of course). Worst performance: Ving Rhames, who I have liked in other roles. Here, he is a flat, stiff cutout. Every line is moral and "true", and Rhames uses an affected, self righteous tone of voice throughout (a propensity the actor often needs to be directed away from). There is even a long scene where he relates a little sermon in church, just to make it clear what a good, godly man he is. There is something self-pitying about the character, and I found myself rooting for him to be crushed in the film, which is surely not what the filmmakers indented. Also, Michael Michele is terrible as Beth Williamson. Another beautiful woman that wants to be a serious actress. Yet another actress that imagines if she makes her eyes half-lidded and speaks in a flat voice, it makes her seem tough.
A bright spot in the film was the performance by Brendan Gleeson, who plays Jack Van Meter. Now here is an actor that knows half-closing your eyes just makes you look sleepy and stupid. His eyes are wide open throughout. He is also terrifying. Gleeson's acting is almost worth the price of admission.