Monday, September 24, 2012

Edison, Forced: "Edison Force" (2006)

Writer/director David J. Burke gets all high and mighty, ready to bring down "the man" and taking no prisoners in this realistic portrayal of big city corruption...except the city is fictional and Justin Timberlake plays a heroic investigative reporter...but just you wait, heads are gonna roll!

The fictional metropolis of Edison used to have a major crime problem, but that went away thanks to F.A.R.T....I mean, F.R.A.T., a S.W.A.T.-like group of specially trained cops. The F.R.A.T. boys (hey, I just got that they're like a brotherhood and all) are very dirty, taking all the drugs, cash, and underage Oriental prostitutes they want, and shooting a suspect here and there. Deed (LL Cool J) and Lazerov (Dylan McDermott, channeling Jason Patric's character in "Rush") kill one druggie and let another live in order to take the dive for the murder.

Pollack (Justin Timberlake) works for a tiny Jewish paper, turning a one sentence statement about the crime into a major expose after sensing Lazerov and Deed lied on the stand. Not enough cast members for you yet? Well, let's shake the supporting character tree and see what lands. We have Ashford (Morgan Freeman), a pervy jerk who runs the little paper Pollack gets fired from and Willow (Piper Perabo), Pollack's completely supportive and totally unremarkable girlfriend. Watch your step, down comes Tilman (John Heard), F.R.A.T.'s evil commander, and the eerily ageless Cary Elwes is District Attorney Reigert, who has big political ambitions and lots of F.R.A.T. cash in his pocket. Finally, Kevin Spacey, sporting an early model for Tom Hanks' Da Vinci Code hairdo, portrays the district attorney's investigator Wallace, but he is a good guy.

Whew! Deed is on the fence, rightfully repulsed by the F.R.A.T. acts, but afraid for the life of his new fiancee if he spills the beans. Pollack and Willow are beat up by Lazerov as Pollack gets close to the truth, but he still has Ashford's confusing sage advice to fall back on. The rest of the film plays like an episode of "Lou Grant," as alliances are formed, investigations are launched, and viewers are bored.

Burke's script never hits the right notes. His characters have no basis in reality (much like the "city" of Edison). The drug house crime that propels the entire film comes about simply because Lazerov feels bad for a "suspect" and decides not to shoot him. Why? He shows no other behavior except racism and hate, but this one event is conveniently different. Burke gives us no background on Pollack or Willow, they are just a cute couple who get beat up. Why does Wallace pick now to launch a serious investigation of F.R.A.T. after knowing all along they are a bunch of criminals? Why is the district attorney's office right next door to F.R.A.T.? Why can't the accomplished F.R.A.T. members blow off Pollack's head after shooting hundreds of rounds at the cast? Who told Justin Timberlake he could act?

A bright, and surprising, spot here is LL Cool J. His character sucks, but he gamely gives it his best. He even outshines Freeman and Spacey. This is LL Cool J's best performance on film.

By the time "Edison Force" limps to its foregone conclusion, you will understand why this was released straight to video instead of going to theaters. Then you will wonder who to write to get stuff like "Material Girls" and "Just My Luck" released straight to video, too.

Justin, stick to your wardrobe malfunctions. (*) out of five stars.