The Flock


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This thriller represents the American directorial debut of a Hong Kong legend, Andrew Lau, who directed Infernal Affairs, the excellent film which inspired The Departed. It stars two fairly important actors, Richard Gere and Claire Danes. The budget was $35 million.

And yet it was never released in the USA, although it was filmed two years ago.

That should tell you something. Since you can assume it is not woefully inept, the proper inference is that the subject matter is so dark and the narrative style so aloof that no distributor felt it had commercial potential. It languishes in limbo, released neither theatrically nor on home video in North America, but seen in various countries across the world.

Richard Gere plays a crusty old caseworker for the Department of Public Safety, whose job is to monitor the progress of registered sex offenders. This job is his entire life. He tries to do it as well as can be done and considers all of his co-workers to be slackers. His obsession with every tiny detail of his assignment does not go down well with the sex offenders, who find his treatment of them to be invasive and illegal.  If only they knew! When he's not badgering them officially, he's donning a hood, ambushing them, and attacking them physically. Even without knowing about the nocturnal attacks, Gere's boss finally decides that the man is more trouble than he's worth and forces him into retirement. Claire Danes plays the newest recruit of the department. She will replace Gere in a month, and the two of them will spend the interim as partners, while he is getting her acquainted with the caseload. In the course of the training, Gere becomes aware of the abduction of a local school girl. He thinks that one or more of his "flock" is responsible. He becomes certain of it when someone starts taunting him anonymously.

Gere is not a police officer, but the real police have too many cases to handle to obsess on a single one, so Gere's monomaniacal pursuit becomes the missing girl's only hope. Danes realizes that Gere is not a normal person, but she is eventually swept up by his idealism, even while realizing that his methods are often misguided and even illegal. She resolves to help Gere find the kidnapped girl, despite her superior's adjurations to the contrary.

I mentioned that the film was dark. That applies to the cinematography as well as the themes. You'll get the picture most accurately if you think of SE7EN, although the monsters in this film have neither John Doe's imagination nor his library card. These are not your tragically troubled, non-violent sex offenders like Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman. They are the kind who kill their victims after torturing and maiming them. They are simply dark and ugly, and they conduct many of their perverted activities in grungy warehouses, deserted trailer parks, abandoned farms, and other places which you would hope never to see except through the safety of a screen. It's more like SE7EN meets 8MM meets Hostel 2, although I, for one, was relieved that most of the truly nasty activities took place off-camera.

The direction is filled with all sorts of strange choices: speed-ups and saturation changes and pauses and jump cuts, all of which serve to take emphasis away from the human drama of the story and to add shift emphasis to the "thriller" aspects of the narrative. You might expect that the serious themes covered in this film would require it to be a moral fable or a character study or a serious drama, but this film is really designed solely to play out as a thriller and it climaxes with a race against the clock. The characters portrayed by Danes and Gere are not really developed to any great extent, and what we do know of Gere is not something we can really admire, so there are no moments of normalcy to break the mood. It's just an unrelieved journey into the minds of violent sex offenders, interrupted only by detours into the caseworker's mind, which is not a much more pleasant place to visit. Unlike many projects with a similar premise, like SE7EN or The X-Files, there is no witty or intelligent banter or lively debate between the partners or with the baddies.

Because the film functions primarily as a thriller, it is much more stylish and aloof than it would be if it concentrated on establishing empathy with the characters, or the victims. It is not a bad movie, by any means, and it features yet another excellent Richard Gere performance which nobody will see, but it makes absolutely no attempt to connect to audiences, and it has nothing special to offer, so one can understand why the money men felt it unsuitable for distribution, even after having sunk $35 million into it.


* No DVD info available yet.







This film is truly lost in the ether. No major reviewers have mentioned it, not even Variety and Hollywood reporter.



5.7 IMDB summary (of 10)









  • Cyd Schulte shows buns and breasts as a willing masochist who panics when the S&M games get out of control. 


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


A pretty solid thriller, but dark and aloof, and always giving too much priority to the style and the plot instead of the human side. It should have been a more significant movie than it is.