Brown's Requiem (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I recently re-watched L.A. Confidential, and I was so impressed by it that I decided I've give a shot to another film made from a James Ellroy novel. Brown's Requiem is actually the third feature film based on an Ellroy book. (James Harris' Cop, with James Woods in the title role, was based on Ellroy's "Blood On The Moon".) While Brown's Requiem is not in the same league as LAC, I found it a decent watch. You have to understand, however, that I love excessively complicated stories about hardboiled down-on-their-luck detectives taking on the corrupt establishment, and I'll watch almost anything in this genre. Judging by the comments at IMDb and elsewhere, most fans of Mr Ellroy's writing seem to feel that this film is an excellent adaptation of the spirit of the book and its characters, but the film's overall rating is mediocre.

Ellroy's story has all the usual types of plot elements from L.A. corruption stories: a bit of father-daughter incest; an eccentric rich guy who lives with the homeless because he's afraid to sleep indoors; a corrupt chief of police who once fired our hero; grisly murders; obnoxious policemen. Like many such stories, it has a meandering focus. The detective (Michael Rooker) is hired to do one thing, but spends most of the time looking for his client. In fact, the true driving force of the story is the search for the client, which takes Rooker up and down the coast from LA to TJ.

Brown's Requiem was made on the cheap by an auteur who has no other credits at IMDb, so production values are not impressive, and the direction involves some unusual choices. Although voice-over narration is a staple of this genre, in fact a necessity because of the plot complexity issue, there is altogether too much of it in this film, and Michael Rooker is not an especially good narrator, so I sometimes felt like I was back in school, following along with something that the teacher had chosen a classmate to read aloud.


see the main commentary

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen 2.35:1. That sounds good in theory, but the transfer is weak, and it is letterboxed, not anamorphic - basically a 4:3 transfer with black bars on the top and bottom

  • full length commentary by the director and the star, Michael Rooker

Notes on the marketing of the DVD:

1. The film is supposed to be rated R for "violence, nudity and language". There is no nudity. There is some nudity in the trailer, which is also on the DVD, but that scene was cut from the film. Even that is not very impressive - it is a stripper wearing a thong, with tasseled pasties over her nipples. In the film itself, Selma Blair is seen in bikini underwear.

2. The ad on says that there are deleted scenes on the DVD. There are none, although the trailer includes footage not in the film.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • Total U.S. gross: $3,000 in two theaters.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. It is satisfactory if you love convoluted stories about the loner detective against a corrupt world. If that isn't your cup of tea, this film probably isn't for you, because it is made for hardcore Ellroy fans.

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