Another gritty cop thriller that lacks substance.
This film has a lot going on to say the least. On top of the dozen or so character plot lines to follow, there is an overarching story, following a group of detectives led by two ex-army guys who perform different risky jobs for a Russian mobster. Soon enough, they find themselves forced into going on one last suicide mission and be done of there unfortunate dealings. All the while, Casey Affleck’s character, a new transfer into a much rougher division of police work, is paired up with one of the dirty detectives, played by Anthony Mackie. All the while, Woody Harrelson, who plays a higher up detective as well as Casey’s uncle, is hot on the trail of the dirty cops. The plot sounds rather confusing, but it’s not that bad in person. That’s not saying it was good, just pretty straightforward.
This movie had so much potential. It could’ve been a masterpiece on the scale of The Departed, but it falls so far off the mark it makes you wonder what this would’ve looked like in the hands of someone who knew what they were doing. John Hillcoat, who directed this film, did not capture this film as well as he could have. There were at least a dozen or more scenes where a skilled filmmaker would build up pathos for as well as develop each of the many characters present in this story. At the end of the day, these characters are extremely shallow and paper thin. There is no reason to care for any of them, and you can’t imagine any of these characters existing outside of the scenes they were in. There were so many different individual plot lines to follow, there wasn’t enough time to develop the characters involved in this plot line. To throw some blame off of Hillcoat, maybe he had a strict time limit and couldn’t add the extra time this movie needed to be anything than what it currently it is, a popcorn flick. Or, maybe he felt this was best. Transitions were rough at best and cinematography was uninspired to be frank. Nothing about his performance as a director was better than average. Considering the movie fell short on several points, I really wish any other director, even M. Night Shyamalan, would’ve taken this project.
The screenplay, written by Matt Cook wasn’t bad, but it was certainly overwritten. Given the fact that your average movie is around two hours long, which this one was almost exactly, why then, would you include a dozen characters and a plot so long it takes around forty minutes to set up? Certain characters should’ve been highlighted to be true leads for this film. Woody Harrelson’s character is a prime example, one with a seemingly deep backstory we never get to see which would build up the pathos his character needed for the third act of the film.
The real crime of this movie is the sheer number of talented actors and actresses in this film that are not even close to being utilized to their potential. Kate Winslet, an Oscar winning caliber actress, delivers her lines as a Russian gangster in a very boxed and run of the mill manner. She could’ve easily killed those especially threatening exchanges she had throughout the film, but she sort of just falls short. She’s not the only one, pretty much every one of the great actors in this cast, save Aaron Paul, Mackie, Affleck and Woody Harrelson, were very, very far below their potential. Paul and Harrelson were really scraping the barrel to give their characters some life and Paul’s performance was one to watch especially. A proper director would’ve relished the opportunity to take such a talented group and see what would’ve happened if they were firing on all cylinders.
What we have here is a long and sort of tired story involving shallow and flat characters played by wonderful actors who mailed in their performances. If a capable director had been in the helms, perhaps he or she could’ve drawn out the pathos, at least character development, and the general film basics, like transitions, this film needed to be great. This movie’s saving grace is Aaron Paul’s and Woody’s performances. The verdict? If you really like cop thrillers that are gritty and long winded and character development isn’t a thing for you, you’re going to love this. If you want a good movie, go far away.