Cinema Signal:

Mob Nemesis:
How the FBI Crippled Organized Crime


. "Dirty"

That's "dirty" as in cops. And, that's "cops" as in LAPD. If you wanted to depict this stained organization in the worst possible light, don't bother. It's been done and here it is again, from the pen of Chris Fisher and Gil Reavill, directed by the former. The picture they give us is that there's no hope Chief Bratton's corps will ever be cleaned up.

We follow the frantic, out-of-control maneuvers of two cops in particular, Salim Adel (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Armando Sancho (Clifton Collins Jr.). These are two law enforcement officers out of the barrio, well familiar with its culture and the scummy men who run it and, apparently, have assimilated it into their bones--police ethics and training notwithstanding. They have about as much resistance to corruption as iron on a sandbar.

Of the two, Sancho is the pensive, conscientious one. Adel is more inclined to scam the system and be part of whatever coverup is needed in order to take what he can from it. He's a full service exploiter of the rich and poor, the homies, the king pins, the scam artists. Morally, a lost cause, dissing the uniform.

When they wake up this day, they are facing Internal Affairs for a bad shooting by Sancho. Sancho is inclined to tell the truth; Adel is implicated, so he's not. And the captain, supported by the Lieutenant, is pretty much smearing it up in slide-through grease to protect his men and their turf. The police department in Los Angeles is being characterized as just another brutal and depraved gangster enterprise.

For awhile, Sancho is our anchor of decency, and our hope for a redemption based on truth and courage. Well before the picture ends, however, we lose hope for him, as well, and thereby for the picture. While it's very good to see Cuba Gooding Jr. again, and Clifton Collins in a role with considerable promise, you can't get behind a story without someone to feel some kinship with, to root for, to care about. That opportunity is flushed down the drain by Chris Fisher's mess of a script.

Though technical categories of filmmaking are handled well, carelessness in its exaggerations defeat artistic potentials and put commercial prospects somewhere in the cellar. Maybe that's why it's already out on DVD (see below).

The LAPD may not be such a good target for depicting hopelessly perverse police conduct these days, but this picture of it is poppin' blanks at too many turns to be considered honest nor a reflection of the real deal.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Clifton Collins Jr. and Cuba Gooding Jr. as officer Sancho and Adel
A leg injury isn't the only penance for dirty cops.
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