Blu Ray / DVD Release: Monday 9th July
Released by Studio Canal UK
For the first hour this film is the most visceral and gripping translation of the mind of writer James Ellroy that has made it to the screen. It’s a pitch black dissection of a sociopathic corrupt cop, surrounded by troubled souls and others searching for their piece of the disgusting pie.
You either love Ellroy’s cynical take on the world, masculinity and women or don’t and it seems to come down to whether you believe that his characters could be real or not. For me, I love him, and it only takes one cursory look at a newspaper or headline segment of the news to know if anything, he might be being kind to our race.
Woody Harrelson is formidable as Dave Brown, the eye of the storm, hell bent on seeing through his vision of policing whatever the cost, and the cost is astronomical to the lives of fellow cops, his family, the women who somehow fall under his spell and the criminals unlucky enough to cross his path.
It’s a breathtaking performance that both forces everyone else, and it’s a fantastic cast, to up their game, but also outshines them through its fearlessness. Particularly a scene with a burrito that prompted the most response on Twitter when I tweeted I was watching this.
So if you like your stories cancerous this is the film for you. Where it all comes apart is when the film feels like it has to force moral questions on to the protagonist that the film neither needs or deserves. The beauty of Ellroy is the fact that no one is spared, everyone is dirty, there is no salvation. It’s jail or death. When the film presents opportunities for redemption and Harrelson’s character has to question his life, it falls apart somewhat and the power of what has gone before is diluted. Also, the direction never knows whether to go all out Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant in its style or stick with the common language we’ve come to expect from The Wire, Homicide, NYPD Blue etc. And this is a shame.
They detract from what could be an incredibly bleak classic, and instead leave the film full of great moments, fronted by a scintillating first hour and brave storytelling, but ultimately lacking in cohesion and confidence.
Still one of the most uncomfortable and uncompromising (til towards the end) characters from an American screen in a long time and the film deserves to be seen.