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.