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

RogerEbert.com

Thumb wormwood 2017

Wormwood

A fascinating piece of filmmaking that challenges the form in new ways as it recalls themes its director has been interested in his entire career.

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…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Chaz's Journal Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

Beyond the Law

Beyond the Law Movie Review
  |  

It was sooner or later inevitable that Norman Mailer would make a movie. He has run for mayor of New York, offered to fight Floyd Patterson and attempted to capture the Pentagon (or at least levitate it), so it was expected he would also try something passably difficult.

"Beyond the Law," which was premiered to hoots and guffaws at the 1968 New York Film Festival, is a pretty inept movie. But it is funny at times, and interesting if only because Mailer reveals so much of his glorious ego.

What he wanted to do, Mailer claimed, was make a cops and robbers movie in the new, honest way -- instead of in the old Hollywood phony way. What he has actually done is to make the phony Hollywood movie in a new, self-indulgent way.

Advertisement

The indulgences are mostly Mailer's (but none of them, alas, are plenary). He's not only convinced that he can act, but that he can play an Irish cop named Francis Xavier Pope and do it with a plausible Irish accent. He can do none of the three.

What he can do, however, is afford us the hilarious spectacle of watching him try.

The plot, if that's the word, involves a group of policemen who are shown on duty (in a totally unconvincing cross-examination) and then go to a bar and drink with their wives and girlfriends. Mailer uses both professional actors (Rip Torn, Michael McClure) and amateurs (including professional amateur George Plimpton).

What's strange is that Mailer, with his sharp sense of social criticism, would make such an outdated movie about policemen. There is, for example, the tough-talking lieutenant (Mailer), wearing his hat indoors and barking questions tough-guy style. There's a scene with two detectives and their dates, during which we get dialog like: "Jeeze, you see the built on her?" There's an informal precinct Inspection by the mayor (obviously intended as John Lindsay), played for grins by Plimpton.

But there's nothing relevant to the role of police in 1969. No perception; none of that Mailer intelligence. Only Mailer himself, hidden inside his favorite tough-guy persona, rocking back on his heels and looking like he has a gat in his pocket and is about to drill us.

Popular Blog Posts

A Composer For All Seasons: On the Range of John Williams

A look at the work of John Williams outside of his greatest hits.

Why I Stopped Watching Woody Allen Movies

Stop watching movies made by assholes. It'll be OK.

The Ten Best Films of 2017

The RogerEbert.com picks for the ten best films of 2017.

Thumbnails Special Edition: Is Our President the Predator-in-Chief?

A special edition of Thumbnails focusing on the women who have accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus