American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
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.
At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...