In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_pride_ver2

Pride

Takes a formulaic approach but is ultimately very effective in its retelling of the fundraising activities of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. Would make…

Thumb_boxtrolls_ver13

The Boxtrolls

"The Boxtrolls" is a beautiful example of the potential in LAIKA's stop-motion approach, and the images onscreen are tactile and layered. But, as always, it's…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

McCanick

McCanick Movie Review
  |  

When fans of beloved character actor David Morse say that they wish he could star in his own movie, "McCanick" is not what they have in mind. As directed by Josh C. Waller and written by Daniel Noah, the movie is a tedious, often incompetently assembled mass of cop-on-the-edge clichés. 

Morse stars as the title character, a grizzled Philadelphia police detective. The movie follows McCanick over the course of a single workday, his 59th birthday, as he rampages through the city, busting heads and screaming threats. In theory, this chaos is in service of tracking down a recently released felon named Simon Weeks (Cory Monteith), a street hustler whom McCanick put behind bars seven years earlier. But it's really in service of standard-issue dirty cop mayhem.

As clumsily written flashbacks pile up, we piece together the bigger picture of McCanick's history with Weeks: they met while McCanick was investigating a politician's murder. McCanick's commanding officer (Ciaran Hinds) hints that sleeping dogs should be let lie, but McCanick won't listen; we discover the terrible secret that binds McCanick to Weeks, but only after enduring a repetitive series of "searing" confrontations between the hero and various perps, accomplices, and random citizens, including a scene in which McCanick intimidates a roomful of tough guys by playing "spin the pistol."

There's also an unremarkable mentor-pupil relationship, with McCanick training a handsome young patrolman (Mike Vogel) who does things by the book and is appalled by the hero's can't-make-an-omelette-without-breaking-skulls attitude. The movie seems content to alternate between imitating "Bad Lieutenant" and imitating "Training Day," minus the genuine spiritual torment of the former and the sleek preposterousness of the latter. 

With his menacing bulk and soulful eyes, Morse lends the material more dignity and heft than it deserves, and there are a few affecting moments between him and Monteith, who died of a heroin overdose last year at 31. (This is his final screen performance.) The movie has a suitably unsettling look, somewhere between a TV-14 cable police drama and a poverty row film noir. Waller and cinematographer Martin Alghren embrace darkness, favoring silhouettes and half-shadowed faces when they're justified, and sometimes when they aren't. A few scenes play much longer than you expected, generating an odd tension. You wonder: Are we still here because the filmmakers don't know when to quit, or because they're lulling us into complacency to set up a sucker punch?

But none of these virtues  compensate for the film's shallow, derivative script and direction. When a goon in the spin-the-pistol scene asks McCanick "what are you Popeye f------g Doyle?" it seems meant as a self-aware preemptive strike against criticism, but it's merely descriptive. "McCanick" barely has a frame it can claim as its own. It shambles in the shadows of similar but richer films, and never hits its own stride.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Why my video essay about "All that Jazz" is not on the Criterion blu-ray

Bob Fosse's masterpiece "All That Jazz" jumps back and forth through the past and the present, and through memory and...

The Unloved, Part Ten: "The Village"

Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."

Ebert's Most Hated

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sometimes, Roger Ebert is exposed to bad movies. When that happens, it is his duty -- if not necessari...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus