We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
"The Mod Squad'' has an intriguing cast, a director who knows how to use his camera and a lot of sly humor. Shame about the story. When you see this many of the right elements in a lame movie, you wonder how close they came to making a better one. The director, Scott Silver, co-wrote the script himself, and has to take some of the blame: This is a classy production and deserves better.
The premise is from the old TV series. Three young screw-ups are interrupted at the beginning of criminal careers, and recruited by a police captain to form an undercover squad. Their assignment: Infiltrate a club where prostitution and drug-dealing seem to be happening. The mod squad doesn't carry guns (officially, anyway), doesn't have badges, and I'm not sure if they can make arrests; maybe they're more like high-level snitches.
The members are described by a Rod Serling-type voice over the opening credits. Julie (Claire Danes) was "a runaway--an addict at 18.'' Pete (Giovanni Ribisi) "went straight from Beverly Hills to County Jail.'' Linc (Omar Epps) "doesn't blame his crimes on anything.'' (He's black, and so the implication, I guess, is that this is worthy of comment.) In the good-looking opening sequence, filmed by Ellen Kuras, they're intercut with dancers at a club, get into a fight, and then find themselves being debriefed and lectured by Capt. Greer (Dennis Farina), who orders them to stand up when they talk to him, quit sitting on his desk, etc. Of course their bad manners are a curtain-raiser to bravery, heroism and astonishing crime-fighting skills.
The skills, alas, are astonishing because they're so bush league. The main investigative technique in this movie consists of sneaking up on people and eavesdropping while they explain the entire plot and give away all the secrets. Julie falls for a former lover, follows him to a rendezvous with a drug kingpin (Michael Lerner) and overhears choice nuggets of conversation ("None of them have any idea I know they're cops!''). Then she follows him home and hides in his closet while the faithless louse does the rumpy-pumpy with another woman.