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Internal Affairs

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Internal Affairs

Starring: Richard Gere, Andy Garcia
Director: Mike Figgis
Rated: R
RunTime: 117 Minutes
Release Date: January 1990
Genres: Drama, Suspense


*Also starring: Nancy Travis, Laurie Metcalf, Richard Bradford, William Baldwin, Michael Beach, Annabella Sciorra



Review by Dragan Antulov
3 stars out of 4

In many European languages phrase "internal affairs" is used for government departments dealing with national security, law enforcement and similar police work. In USA same phrase is used for similar organisations, but on much lower level -specialised divisions that deal with corruption and similar abuses of power within various law enforcement agencies. Since the issues of police corruption tend to evade black-and-white vision of the world and the investigations, even those successful, leave bitter taste of mouth, policemen chasing other policemen were as popular among Hollywood filmmakers as among real life policemen. One of rare movies that dealt with this subject is INTERNAL AFFAIRS, 1990s thriller that happened to be American debut of famous British director Mike Figgis.

Protagonist of this film is Raymond Avilla (played by Andy Garcia), ambitious young policeman who has just joined Internal Affairs Division of LAPD and is blissfully unaware of the emotional toll he would have to pay for success in his new career. First hint comes when he happens to investigate his old friend Van Stretch (played by William Baldwin), patrolman who turned into human wreck after consuming too much of illegally seized drugs. Soon Avilla's attention turns to Van's partner, friend and mentor Dennis Peck (played by Richard Gere) whose willingness to remain uniformed street policeman seems conspicuous, as well as rich lifestyle incompatible with ordinary policeman's salary. Avilla and his partner Amy Wallace (played by Laurie Metcalf) begin investigation, determined to expose Peck and his cabal of corrupt cops, but this task seems harder than both of them had imagined. Peck is not only well-connected within police and on the street; he is totally ruthless and he would stop at nothing in order to prevent Internal Affairs from finding any compromising evidence. But the best way to stop Avilla is by discovering his soft spot in the form of Avila's young, beautiful and recently much neglected wife Kathleen (played by Nancy Travis).

INTERNAL AFFAIRS is a movie that should be remembered mostly for two things, but none of them has much to do with Henry Bean's script that failed to explore social, ethical, racial, ethnic and political angles offered by this potentially intriguing subject. What we are left is rather formulaic 1980s cop story about good policeman that defies odds in order to bring down evil and seemingly all-powerful crime lord (who just happens to be another policeman). What saves this film is excellent performance by Richard Gere who uses rare opportunity to play villain and does it with gusto. Dennis Peck is therefore one of the most memorable villains in history of cinema - someone who is intelligent, manipulative, almost childishly immoral and chillingly ruthless and in the same time able to present himself as loving father and husband. Gere's performance managed to overshadow the rest of the cast, starting with Andy Garcia who tried very hard to bring darker dimension to his seemingly flawless character. Some minor players stand out, though, including Laurie Metcalf who brought some dignity to otherwise thankless role of lesbian detective. The direction by Mike Figgis is very good - British director obviously enjoyed opportunity to shoot in sunny California and his efforts represent the triumph of style over substance. Almost any character in this film looks like fashion model, they all live in luxurious houses, drive expensive cars, wear fashionable clothes and enjoy lifestyle worthy of Hollywood royalty. But Figgis doesn't bother with lengthy explanations (and never answers how Mexican policeman from low background hooked up with wealthy and refined WASP girl played by Nancy Travis) and actually uses this visual glamour to make effective contrast with almost surreal levels of corruption depicted in this film. The abrupt, although rather predictable ending, leaves much to be desired, but INTERNAL AFFAIRS is still very interesting, stylish and in many ways entertaining film that didn't deserve to sink into oblivion.

Copyright 2002 Dragan Antulov

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