Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Homicide" (1991) - Movie Classics

David Mamet has his actors speak emotion than happen on their face. It is his strength, style and an elegance he employs in his work. An impeccable screenwriter directs the film which has its undercurrent, undertone and sneakiness of revelations default to a Mamet’s script. But there is more. What begins as a crime story gets Detective Bobby Gold (Joe Mantegna) into the roots he has not sweated to know and the underworld he gets exposed to scares the nature of the force imbibed in each of us. It absorbs him into the forgotten past and then gives right back at him and to the audience in the end to wonder what simple emotions can translate into deadly forces.

In the first scene we are capitulated by the execution of the writer and director. A thorough procedure in busting a criminal. There are no thrilling music or hurried pace of several cut shots. Pure action in these police officers who are nervous as heck reeking through their masked bodies. It opens up to the film wherein we learn that a murderer is on the run and FBI are off the case as they detonated a race war. Bobby and his partner Tim (William H. Macy) had run into this convict even before FBI assigned him as the most wanted man. He speaks up and that segues into a riling competition with a black official wherein Bob is called a kike. Tim goes ballistic and there establishes two things, one that Bobby is Jew and the other being Tim is a trustworthy partner and a friend.

Bob and Tim begin the case when they stumble upon another murder case where an old Jewish woman is shot dead in her store in a dangerous neighbourhood. Bob who assists a rookie on his first day is assigned the case as the son of the woman pulls strings to bring a Jew in solving the crime. Bob is frustrated as he is the golden boy in bringing the FBI wanted man Randolph to the cage. Against the advice of his boss, he begins juggling both with lesser concern for the old woman’s case.

Mamet is so focussed on his writing that the people stand there reciting his dialogues in the way he exactly wanted. They are not great on emotional empathy but damn they are good in tagging their fellow stars with precise timing. It would have been seen as a far lesser valued film for acting but I appreciate it for the actors to do what was told with a faith they can solidly rely on. Joe Mantegna and William H. Macy have been Mamet’s actors for a long time and both are capable and excellent performers. Yet they abide by the rules of the screenplay.

“Homicide” which is a traditional devoted version of Mamet’s writing has more than conning than usual. It has a man getting spurred on the underlying racial jokes, remarks he has dusted off gets confronted in an unusual way. In one of the most outrageous phone conversation of Bobby with Tim, he goes on ranting about the Jews with such a thorough study in stereotyping and mixing it with his helplessness of not being there for his high profile case. He does not notice that the granddaughter (Rebecca Pidgeon) of the deceased is right out there. She asks him, “Why do you hate yourself so much?”. She means his ethnicity, which defines him or wants him to be defined by the atrocities and ordeal they went through. That sparks his consciousness.

The film then takes whirlwind ride into the world of Zionist group and Bobby’s sudden shift to the old woman’s case while the high profile case takes back seat. He begins to invest and becomes increasingly convinced that he has been the man shedding off his roots and forgotten the real reason of his existence. Before he knows it, he is neck deep into a pile of unwanted storm he got himself into. What follows is a tragedy, a revelation and the brilliance of Mamet in syncing everything to a perfection.

In the generation of prolific and thorough screenwriters David Mamet is the reigning King. The plethora of work he gives out and the quality of each of those surprises me personally. The information he puts forth in his screenplay becomes the perfect rule book for operating the film. There appears no improvisations but plain simple magic of words becoming into people and the concept becoming the soul and with all there is a serene completion in the work of a master. This is David Mamet.

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