A Worthy Twist on Familiar Themes, 9 December 2008
Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hollywood is justly criticised for its concentration on formulaic fare. So this commendable attempt to twist some familiar characterization and situations into unfamiliar territory is welcome indeed. Although ultimately unsure of its identity as a film, the story, Samuel Jackson, and script ,.are all well above average. The central premise is of a mixed race couple who move next door to a hardened cop – they do not get on.
But the Cop is black, the man is white and the woman black.. Director Neil Labute has a reputation as an edgy player with challenging takes on misogynist and racist views which are fully exploited as the film develops. The strength of the story is its ambiguity as none of the characters are wholly likable, or unlikeable. But this also weakens the dramatic tension at the end.
The final act is preposterous with forest fires, shoot outs and a corny wrap up, but before, it is unusually strong with a towering performance from Jackson. as Cop Abel Turner. Although “the bad guy”, his character has several redeeming features. He is a hard working widower to two teenage children, the tough thin blue line in a violent neighbourhood, and has a strong moral value set. Thus his ultimate demise is not a cause for unqualified celebration. Equally, his “opponent”, Chris Mattson played by Patrick Wilson is a weak, insipid, preppy individual whom it is difficult to “root for” as the good guy. His “wigger” taste for Black Gangsta Rap is scornfully derided by Turner , “When you wake up in the morning you will still be white”.
Mattson’s wife Lisa, has to tolerate the racial prejudice of her own black father against her white husband, and when Cop Turner needs to call upon some crack dealing muscle to deal with the Mattson’s, of course he is white! Shamelessly the story revels in challenging every racial stereotype going.
The flaws in the story are its unnecessary “big finish” and loose ends tied up conclusion and the fact that Turner is not bad enough, nor Chris Mattson good enough for us to be able to walk away feeling that justice was done