Crime/Comedy, 90 Minutes, 2012
Set in 1974, this feels like someone’s attempt to create a syndicated show for my grandmother. Billy Burke [IMDB] plays Chris Mankowski, a no-nonsense, right-before-rules cop with an attitude. He’s so manly they had to put it right there in his name! Formerly on the bomb squad, he had some troubles and is now riding a desk in the sex crimes unit.
When a girl comes in accusing an eccentric millionaire of rape, Chris is drawn into a bizarre world of drugs, mindless extravagance and wasted potential. After two ex-cons with an eye towards revenge on the same millionaire enter the picture, things take a turn for the weirder and more… explosivier.
It may be purposeful, but the movie is actually staged and paced like a 1970’s crime serial. Rather than giving it a sense of nostalgic style, it often feels like cheap movie-of-the-week. A more modern presentation may have avoided this. On the plus side there’s a nice attention to detail where props and wardrobe is concerned. For good or ill (and despite a few annoying anachronisms) you might be forgiven for thinking that this is an old movie.
Based on the novel by prolific writer Elmore Leonard [IMDB], the dialog is sharp and pleasantly clichéd. Burke is a great choice for the role and maintains a perfect tone of manly, in-control apathy when under pressure. His delivery may be overly monotone, but it works well for the material.
Many of the other roles don’t fare so well. Several of them, especially the featured female characters, feel woodenly written and even more woodenly acted. It may be era-appropriate to treat women like props, but it still doesn’t work. There are good performances; both Christian Slater [IMDB] as a dim, cuckolded criminal and Michael Jai White [IMDB] as a completely stereotypical, but entertaining, butler/body guard/chauffeur/baby-sitter deserve special mention.
Too often style and nostalgia play as cheap cheese and attempted cleverness fails find footing. Fans of the genre may find more to like here than I did, but there are definitely better examples to choose from.