One of the publications I used to write for asked me to do a piece on Sidney Lumet when he died. I was hit-and-miss on his movies, and didn’t realize until researching him how much people think of New York when they think of his films. There were lots of bad cops, corrupt politicians…perhaps he could’ve made a decent movie out of this screenplay.
Director Allen Hughes (working for the first time without his brother) did Menace II Society and the very underrated The Book of Eli (Denzel Washington). And with a cast that includes Mark Wahlberg, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Crowe, Barry Pepper, and Jeffrey Wright – you’d think everything would go right. Yet so much of this goes wrong.
The movie starts off with corrupt politicians and corrupt cops, during an election. Everyone has a different take on what the future of New York City should be like. Wahlberg is forced out as a cop, in a questionable shooting. He’s barely getting by in his own private eye business. He has a cute working relationship with his college student secretary. When he gets a call from Crowe offering $50,000 to follow his wife and see who she’s having an affair with – it’s money he can’t refuse (of course he’ll rip the check up in anger later in the movie; they always do).
You’ll immediately think there’s some kind of frame-up in the works, but it gets a lot more confusing then it really needs to be.
Crowe’s New York accent is confusing at times also (but hey, at least he isn’t singing this time).
Wahlberg plays an alcoholic that’s on the wagon, and I have a hard time trying to figure out why everyone keeps wanting him to drink. Only his wife (Natalie Martinez) seems concerned with keeping him away from the booze.
Their story is also utterly ridiculous. She’s an actress that makes a lot of indie films. The indie film they show her in looks like it’s a commercial for tampons or erectile dysfunction. It starts with the couple is sitting on a beach in each others arms, and talking about love. We quickly see her bent over a kitchen table, and Wahlberg throws his head into his hands, disgusted at what his wife is doing on screen. Will this lead him to hit the bottle at the after-party?
I wondered who in the movie we could root for. Initially you just assume it’s going to be Wahlberg. Yet the way he acts towards his wife (and we can’t blame that solely on the al-al-al-alcohol)….and we find out things later in the movie that also make it hard to like him.
Jeffrey Wright seems to be the bad guy early on, but later in the movie when we find out he’s a decent person – until he says things that make us not like him (I won’t reveal what they are).
I enjoyed seeing director Griffin Dunne in a small role as a friend of Crowe’s – I’m just not sure now what his character was even there for.
There are a few really clever scenes in this movie. One of them involves a politicians speech and debate being rehearsed. You’re certainly never bored watching it, even if it’s all stuff you’ve seen in cop movies from the ‘70s.
I am a bit confused as to why the critics are panning this movie, yet recommending Schwarzenegger’s latest piece of garbage.
Even though I can only give it 2 stars out of 5, I’m guessing most people will like it.