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Excruciatingly paced with unsatisfying payoff
I'm amazed at the good reviews this film got. ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY gave it an A, so I rented it and was horrified at how uninteresting it was. It made me squirm with boredom as I waited for SOMETHING, anything to happen. Everything seems to hinge on Something Bad that happened in the main character's past, and the info is doled out in tiny bits; when the truth comes to light, it is not very satisfying or dramatic.
This film may have some artsy conceits (mostly just long fixed camera shots in which little if anything happens of consequence for minutes at a time), but the characters are so lifeless and the plotting so barren, they do not create an atmosphere which draws the viewer in. Check out an early Jim Jarmusch film if you want to see how to create a beautiful, evocative movie with deliberate pacing and scenes which run long in a naturalistic way.
The Ghost Squad (2005)
Compelling stories and acting, marginal production values
I really enjoyed this 8 part series, largely due to the lead character's convincing evolution from episode to episode. It is not light stuff, and the good cop bad cop plots tackle serious issues of law enforcement ethics and the slippery morality of undercover "internal affairs" cops. Though the lead good cop, played by Elaine Cassidy, succeeds in most of her missions, the result is rarely satisfying to the character or the audience, as tragically flawed cops get caught in traps and slippery career-minded superiors operate behind the scenes. Cassidy is quite good, creating a character who progresses from gung-ho righteousness to grim determination; she is both manipulated and manipulating.
In some ways, the blurry morality and internal affairs theme reminds me of The Shield. For an American who doesn't watch a whole lot of British cop TV, it also provided an interesting insight into police work on that side of the pond. Unfortunately, the photography and editing can be distractingly bad, and yet the excellent acting and thought provoking perspective on police ethics more than make up for technical shortcomings. Kudos especially to Cassidy, who has proved herself an astonishingly versatile actress in recent years.