Film Review: McCanick

Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle and Harvey Keitel's Bad Lieutenant have nothing on the psycho antics of David Morse's cop-on-the-verge here, but it's all empty, chaotic bluster.

It's the birthday of Philadelphia police detective Eugene “Mack” McCanick (David Morse), but it's anything but a happy day when he discovers that Simon Weeks (Cory Monteith), a hood he sent to jail seven years ago, has just gotten an early release from prison. For personal reasons, Mack had framed the teenage hustler, who sold drugs on the side, and now, despite strict orders from his superior (Ciarán Hinds) to leave it alone, he relentlessly pursues Weeks. Mack is obviously out of control, having some sort of nervous breakdown, with family and sexual issues to address, and his mania results in the inanely tragic shooting of his rookie partner (Mike Vogel).

The plot of McCanick, sketchy to begin with, is made even more so by Daniel Noah's woozy, fragmented script, and direction by Josh C. Waller for which "clumsy" is almost too kind a description. The movie climaxes, of course, in a crucial chase sequence which is stripped of any suspenseful momentum by the filmmakers' insertion of a flashback which is supposed to finally explain the motives for Mack's unceasingly irrational behavior. Super-dark, muddy cinematography is yet another obscuring element, although the sound quality is adequate enough, unfortunately enabling us to hear lines like "Pawnshops are the unwashed asshole of the world." Repressed homosexuality is an important element of this confused, derivative and wholly unsatisfying mess, and the attitude the film takes to it is so weirdly antediluvian it might have been made in the 1950s.

Morse has, over the years, become a specialist in blue-collar derangement, and I, for one, hope this is the last time we see him thusly. The camera is trained relentlessly on his hapless baby face, and his gruff-voiced, wounded-animal, blowhard energy becomes monotonous in the extreme. As if to outshine him, Hinds has also been encouraged to overdo the growling machismo, which we have also seen emanating from him too often. The real tragedy, however, is the late Monteith, who, in his final screen performance, shows evidence that he was bravely attempting to stretch himself as an actor, but is sadly defeated by this trite, garishly sensationalistic and empty material.