Sunday, June 12, 2011

Jason Freeland - Brown's Requiem (1998)

Jason Freeland - Brown's Requiem (1998)

A former police detective and recovering alcoholic is hired by a shady golf caddy to investigate his sister's boyfriend, a wealthy old man with ties to the mob.
After Cop and L.A. Confidential, here is the third feature film based on a James Ellroy novel, his first, actually. This low-key film is surprising good (I like it better than Dark Blue, which is the fourth James Ellroy adaptation that came a few years later) and I really recommend it to any fan of film-noir.
Review from
Since many have grown to expect neo-noirs to be cable-ready wastes of time, Brown's Requiem comes as a refreshing surprise. Blissfully free of any attempts to one-up Tarantino, this straightforward adaptation of James Ellroy's hard-boiled novel is a must for fans of no-nonsense noir. Writer-director Jason Freeland displays a knack for narrative and a masterful sense of casting that make the first-time filmmaker someone to keep an eye on.
Fritz Brown (Michael Rooker) is ex-LAPD, currently paying the bills as a repo man and private eye, and trying not to drink away his new careers. In classic detective-movie fashion, his life is complicated by a strange client — this one's named Fat Dog (William Sasso), a filthy, racist caddy who apparently sleeps on golf course greens but has a huge roll of cash in his pocket. Fat Dog wants Fritz to follow his 17-year-old sister, Jane (Selma Blair), who, according to Fat Dog, is living in disgusting fashion with a Beverly Hills millionaire with a taste for jailbait (Harold Gould). As with many of Ellroy's antiheroes, Fritz's trail to the truth is sleazy, dangerous, complicated, and very possibly more trouble than it's worth. But before the ex-cop is done, he'll up-end the life of his cousin Walter (Kevin Corrigan), come face-to-face with the LAPD Internal Affairs chief (the late Brion James) who booted him off the force, and look more than one sexual deviant in the eye.

Freeland's most brilliant stroke is the casting of Rooker. Since his breakthrough in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, the tough-looking actor has mostly been delegated to bad guy supporting roles (e.g., Mallrats, etc.), but here he makes a most sympathetic hero. In true B-movie tradition, Rooker's gruff character-actor appearance is perfect for Fritz — no glamour-boy movie star could make this role work. He gives his character the hard-edged air of both exhaustion and excitement typical of an alcoholic who is trying to get his life back on track, but occasionally falls back into the sewer.

The rest of Requiem's players are equally strong, even if some only turn up in cameos (the appearances of Brad Dourif and The Limey's Barry Newman are far too brief). The sole flaw in the film is Blair, who, although reasonably talented, is miscast yet again as a teen ingenue. No amount of lollipops in her mouth, short skirts on her hips, or false innocence in her eyes is enough to convince the viewer that Blair — who was 26 years old when the film was shot — even remotely resembles a teenager. (Interestingly enough, Blair managed to evoke an adolescent air much more convincingly on the now-cancelled WB sitcom Zoe….)

Thankfully, despite the misleading one-sheet poster which features her prominently, Blair is barely in the film. This is Rooker's show, and Freeland knows it. With only one slightly over-the-top flourish — a disgusting and probably unnecessary moment of gore near the end — Freeland demonstrates the sort of calm, controlled storytelling prowess that's become very rare in Hollywood. His willingness to let characters and story hold the viewer's attention on their own is amazingly mature for such an fresh talent, and any studio executives worth their salt would sign this guy to a multi-picture deal. But if they want to see Requiem in the theater, they better hurry. After a short run in Los Angeles, this hard-boiled gem is, ironically, headed straight to video.



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