IndieWire’s review of this movie compared it to Seven, which is not only lazy, but it’s the most basic of all connections: young hotshot white cop teamed with world-weary black cop to find a killer who keeps eluding the police. Except that, you know, Seven* is the kind of movie that will live on in cinema lovers’ minds for, well, ever and this movie won’t stay in your brain longer than it takes to watch it. Hopefully.
Ah, HBO Max. For all the sturm and drang and handwringing given over to your plan to play movies at the same time they make it to theaters. Well, between this and Wonder Woman 1984, they’re exactly zero for two.
The comparisons between the films went the whole way to interviews with writer and director John Lee Hancock, who claimed that he wrote this way before Fincher’s movie forever transformed serial killer procedurals. It was originally to be a Clint Eastwood vehicle and then a Steven Spielberg movie and then, well, it sat around for some time.
This movie is set in 1993, which you’ll know because there’s a No Doubt flyer on the victim’s fridge but not because the lead detective’s house looks like it was built last year. That time incongruity is the least of this film’s problems. In fact, if you told me it was set in 2020, I’d believe you just as quickly as if you’d say 1993.
Joseph “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) is a man whose detective career has ruined his life and the lives of everyone around him, pushing him away from Los Angeles and into the outskirts of town, dealing with crimes as simple minded as the Black Angus Restaurant continually needing to replace the g.
While back in the city to pick up evidence, Deacon comes into the orbit of the man who replaced him, Detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek). You know how that works, what with people being able to move from county to county on cases, jurisdiction be damned.
There’s a killer painting ip his victims and that killer might be Albert Sparma (Jared Leto), who fits every expectation of what a loner killer should look and act like. But is he guilty? He’s an unreliable suspect who is so obsessed with criminal behavior that he confessed to a crime he could have never committed once before.
So what do two good — we hope they are — men do to put away one bad — we hope he is — man? A lot of nothing, as it turns out.
Far be it from me to condemn movies where nothing happens for long stretches of time. That would pretty much describe 99% of the drive-in and grindhouse movies I love, which feature travelogue footage, unnecessary b-roll and long go nowhere scenes that follow each performer each time they walk anywhere.
This film somehow feels longer than five of them in a row while overdosing on Klonopin.
The thing is, if this were a small budget film with no name actors, it wouldn’t make a blip on the rader. But this feature three acting powerhouses and a well-considered writer and director at the helm. And for all that gasoline in the tank, the car is going nowhere fast. And even worse, the car is not special nor does it possess anything that you haven’t seen in every other car that looks exactly like it.
I realize that not every movie can rock your world. But they should at least try. This has Leto playing, well, Leto. At least I hope that he didn’t send used condoms and dead rodents to Denzel and Malek like he did to his co-stars in Suicide Squad.
Also, and this is a silly complaint, but I couldn’t understand a word Malek said. In Bohemian Rhapsody, I chalked that up to him having to get teeth like Freddie Mercury. I can more easily divine what Bane says than his character in this movie.
Movies can be dumb. They can have plot holes. They can have horrible special effects, bad continuity, laughable performances. But the worst thing a movie can be is boring. And I fear that this entire day has all been a dream and somewhere, I am still watching this movie and will soon find myself waking up to having to watch it all again.
*I know I’m supposed to write this as Se7en but that makes my fingers hurt.