by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I suppose Russell Crowe may no longer be on the A-list, but if he is, he joins the long list of A-listers whose latest releases have gone straight-to-vid this year. That list includes Morgan Freeman, Antonio Banderas (twice), Liam Neeson and Tommy Lee Jones. If you want to extend the list to former A-listers, you can add Val Kilmer.

Actually, it's a trend I like. It makes my daily tasks a lot easier when I can watch a serious film starring a talented guy like Crowe or Freeman instead of the cheapjack genre films that often populate my in-box just because they include some bare flesh. And Crowe is genuinely talented. He may be a very difficult man, as per his reputation, but nobody ever said he couldn't act.

He does a good job here in a quiet role as a semi-retired police detective who is determined to see that a released killer does not kill again. The story is adapted from a typically dark Robert Cormier novel. The basic premise is that the detective once succeeded in getting the sociopath convicted and imprisoned, but the courts eventually released the young man for two reasons: (1) he was a minor when he murdered his parents; (2) experts testified that his behavior was prompted by a over-medication which his parents forced upon him.

The detective is conflicted. While he has no desire to hurt the kid, he knows that society is in danger, and he wants to make sure the kid can't do any more harm. The detective ultimately hits upon a perfect, if utterly cynical, plan to see that the kid is sent back to prison. A young suicidal runaway attaches herself to the killer. The cop finds the two of them together and essentially makes no effort to send the girl back to her parents or to place her on a suicide watch in protective custody. He reasons that she's going to kill herself eventually anyway, but some good can come of her death if she stays with the sociopath. Eventually either the killer will give in to his instincts and kill the girl, in which case he can be convicted as an adult, or she will kill herself, in which case the kid can be framed for her murder. Either way, the kid is returned to prison, where he belongs.

It's a film that's made for discussions in English class. The detective dooms the girl by using her for bait, and he is willing to send the kid back to prison for a crime he did not commit. The cop's actions seem very wrong on the surface. Yet the girl wanted to kill herself, and the kid needed to be in jail because he really was a killer. After all, the reason why we have jails in the first place is to keep guys like him away from the rest of us.

Did the detective do the right thing or not? Discuss.

I liked the way the story was presented with moral ambiguity, and there are a few interesting plot twists as well, but the film just plods along too slowly. At one point I looked down at the timer on my DVD player and it revealed that I was 52 minutes into the movie, but not one blessed thing had happened. The entire first hour of the film survives solely on the dramatic tension created by what might happen, and some things that almost happen. While the plot does finally advance at the tail end of the film, that movement is a long time in coming.

Awaiting DVD INFO



This film was not reviewed by any of the major print sources, but several online reviews are linked from the IMDb page.


6.4 IMDB summary (of 10)





If you grow impatient waiting for the plot to unravel, you'll be pulling your hair out waiting for the nudity. I was cursing because the film was just about over, with everything resolved, and there had been no nudity at all. I was sure I had been hornswoggled into thinking there was nudity. Crowe was doing the voice-over that seems to summarize and wrap-up every detective movie, and it was obvious that the credits were about to roll. The visual presentation which accompanied Crowe's obligatory world-weary narration consisted of Crowe tending to his wife, who was in a coma.

And then ...

... he took off her clothes and gave her a bath, basically just as the ending credits began. That was the sum total of the film's nudity: T&A from a quick sponge bath of a character in a coma, a character virtually unrelated to the storyline. Specifically, a character played by Tanya Clarke.


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:


The film has Russell Crowe and Laura Dern and some of Robert Cormier's most interesting ideas, but it is oh-so-slow to develop.