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The Mod Squad

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Mod Squad

Starring: Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi
Director: Scott Silver
Rated: R
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: March 1999
Genres: Action, Thriller

*Also starring: Omar Epps, Carmen Lee

Review by Greg King
1½ stars out of 4

Another old tv series is revisited and updated for the '90's. However, this lacklustre big screen version of The Mod Squad, which originally ran from 1968 to 1973, joins other dud adaptations such as The Beverly Hillbillies, Lost In Space and the recent My Favourite Martian.

The original series centred around a squad of delinquent teenagers put back onto the streets by a tough but sympathetic cop, who used them to infiltrate seedy bars and clubs and street gangs in an effort to fight crime. This big screen version takes the same premise, but basically trashes it with a formulaic and unoriginal plot that involves crooked cops and illicit drug deals.

This '90's version also loses the rebellious anti-establishment undercurrents that were prevalent in the '60's and '70's, and which gave the series an unusual edge. This new look Mod Squad is little more than an average television movie, and is unlikely to appeal to the same audiences that remember the similarly themed 21 Jump Street with more affection. The script is trite and predictable, the dialogue terribly clichéd and the characters one dimensional. Scott Silver's direction is pedestrian.

The three stars lack rapport, and their performances are uncomfortable, flat and uncharismatic. Claire Danes does the best she can with the undemanding role of Julie Barnes, the street wise former drug addict. Giovanni Ribisi (from The Other Sister, Saving Private Ryan, etc) brings an intensity to his performance as Pete Cochrane, the rich kid turned bad, that seems misplaced given the almost comic book quality of the material. Omar Epps (from Higher Learning, etc) gives his Linc Hayes all the life and energy of a lump of wood. Veteran Dennis Farina is wasted as the squad's mentor Adam Greer, whose murder kick-starts the plot.

The ending conveniently leaves the way open for a sequel. However, if prolific producer Aaron Spelling was hoping to turn The Mod Squad into a successful new movie series he has sadly under estimated the intelligence of the audience and over estimated the quality of the banal script.

Copyright © 2000 Greg King

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