Who's In It: Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, Lili Taylor, Vincent D'Onofrio
The Basics:Cops face many problems in life. They must, right? It's a tough job and all that. But in movies, cops face like three dilemmas max:
1. If they're about to retire they've got a really cathartic redemption moment they have to go through before the pension can kick in.
2. If they're good but sort of stressed (and unable to figure out contraception, resulting in eleventy kids at home to feed) then they're ripe for turning to the dark side. And then they do. And then it all goes wrong.
3. If they're undercover a long time then it's going to mess with their minds and allegiances because they are simply in too deep, bro.
So yeah, that's what happens in this movie.
What's The Deal: There are crime movies like Heat or The French Connection or Chinatown, movies about the weird intersection of badness and the flawed people who fight badness, that blow your mind and earn your love because they're not just great crime movies, they're also examples of cinema crossing over into being actual art. And then there are the ones you just watch because they have guns and grime and swears. And you don't mind the ones in the latter camp. You're not asking for them to be much more than the songs you've heard on the radio a million times and you just kind of want to hear them again, or the frozen pizza you heat up because it's easy. If you've ever seen a movie about policemen then you've seen this movie too. It's just that you won't mind too much. And if you can keep from kidding yourself that it's important, you'll have an okay time.
The Drinking Game Version: Sips for profanity, self-importance (from the movie, not from the characters), stereotypical urban street grit, any time someone is introduced with a silly gangsta nickname like Tango or an oddly inappropriately ethnic name like Sal (especially when that person is Ethan Hawke) and the sad underuse of Lili Taylor; gulps for people yelling, casual violence and existential angst; down the whole drink for full on gunfire. And if you don't remember the movie when you're done you'll be in the same boat as the people who just watched it without booze.
To Be Fair: The whole movie is saved thanks to the actors. Their performances are good because they're good at what they do. They take this R-rated TV movie and elevate it because that's their job, and they've all really earned their money this time around.