Dirty Movie Review
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, familiar with its culture and the scummy men who run it. But paragons of law they are not, and they have about as much resistance to corruption as a tin badge in seawater.
Of the two, Sancho is the pensive, conscientious one. Adel is more inclined to scam the system and be part of whatever cover-up 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 kingpins, 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 not. And the captain, supported by the Lieutenant (Cole Hauser), 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, he loses his grip and the main casualty is our hope for him and for the picture. While it's good to see Cuba Gooding Jr. acting without animal co-stars, and Clifton Collins in a role with more than usual promise, you can't get behind a story without someone to feel kinship with, to root for, to care about. That opportunity is flushed down the drain by Chris Fisher's mess of a script. There's no bonding in this arrest.
Technical categories of filmmaking are handled well, but carelessness in the story and character exaggerations defeat artistic potentials and will be a challenge for commercial prospects--even with a total budget of $3 million. Which probably accounts for why it was sentenced so quickly to the DVD bin.
The LAPD may not be such a good target for depicting hopelessly perverse police conduct these days, after the lessons of the Rampart Street scandals and the installation of a new chief in Los Angeles, but this attempt to exploit it is poppin' blanks at too many turns to be honest. It isn't much more than a worn out, barely TV-level theme riddled with cheap shots.