DVD Tuesday: Good Cop/Bad Cop/Psycho Cop - James Woods is all three in this pre-L.A. Confidential James Ellroy thriller.
Cop box art courtesy MGM
I was reading
over the weekend and wondering why the success of
(1997) did nothing to raise the profile of
(1988), a brutal little thriller based on his
Blood on the Moon
. I couldn't come up with a theory, but this week I decided to do my bit.
opened with no fanfare, but I was already a
fan (I don't think I even knew who Ellroy was back then), so I took a flyer on it and I was hooked from the credits sequence: black screen, two voices, a 911 operator and a guy reporting a murder. And it's grimly hilarious, because the good citizen is trying to pussyfoot around the fact that he's a burglar, trying to do the right thing while not admitting that his knowledge of the crime he's reporting was acquired mid-B&E.
Woods, who coproduced the film with director
James B. Harris
, plays LAPD detective Lloyd Hopkins, whom Ellroy eventually featured in three novels (it preceded
Because the Night
). Hopkins is sleazy, selfish, self-destructive, vice-ridden, obsessive, a rotten husband and a pathological authority-hater - exactly the kind of character the feral Woods excels at playing - but he's also a terrific cop, a devoted (if unorthodox) father and has a real thing about sadistic sociopaths who take out their screwed-upness on women.
He's the guy who gets the 911 case, which involves the brutal murder of a young woman. He's also the guy who connects her killing to a string of murders dating back 15 years, and connects all of them to a feminist poet (
Lesley Ann Warren
) who runs a small bookstore. I'll refrain from explaining more about the nature of the connection, but it's spectacularly twisted in the classic Ellroy way.
's abrupt, uncompromising ending is one of the all-time greats: I'll say only that, like the exploding-head sequence in
(1981) - see my
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill!
column - it stunned a Times Square audience into dead silence.
The dark sense of humor established in the credits sequence is evident throughout, as is Ellroy's scathing contempt for righteous hypocrites and authentic familiarity with L.A.'s swamp neon slime.
doesn't deserve to be gathering dust in obscurity - check it out.
Things to consider:
can an antihero be before he's contemptible?
How much is an actor - even an extremely talented one - pigeonholed by his or her looks? Could you ever really believe James Woods as a thoroughly nice guy?
Send your movie questions to
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See Maitland McDonagh and Ken Fox review this week's new flicks on the
Previously in DVD Tuesday:
All About Eve
Sweet Smell of Success
Daughters of Darkness
A Simple Plan
Ace in the Hole
Eyes Without a Face
Gone in 60 Seconds
Bob le Flambeur
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
I'm Not Scared
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill! - Scanners and The Candy Snatchers
Don't Look Now
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Devil Wears Prada
The Thief and the Cobbler
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
In Cold Blood