When a film starring Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey gets pulled from cinemas and goes straight to DVD, questions have to be asked. Admittedly, their parts are only small ones, with the central roles being given to L L Cool J and Dylan McDermott as cops and Justin Timberlake as a young reporter trying to expose them.

The city of Edison was once the murder capital of America, but more recently it’s been brought under control by a special police team, the First Response Assault & Tactical unit, or F.R.A.T. These guys don’t play by the rules – they shoot suspects, steal drugs and weapons from undercover busts and generally get away with it, albeit with a little help from the crooked District Attorney (Cary Elwes). Almost above the law, the F.R.A.T. cops are so extreme that they make Vic Mackey look restrained.

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So far, all this has somehow evaded the attention of the press, until Josh Pollack (Timberlake), a rookie reporter with a weekly paper, stumbles upon something and starts to write a story. His editor (Freeman) gets him an interview with the DA to discuss his findings and it’s not long afterwards that the intimidation and violence starts. Only the DA’s special investigator (Spacey) and a cop with a conscience (Cool J) are interested in cleaning things up.

Edison might have been interesting if there was any originality to its story, but unfortunately it’s a by-the-numbers corruption thriller. It would be easy to blame its failings on Timberlake, but that is a little unfair. Despite his limitations as an actor, the character of Pollack is one-dimensional and a better actor would have struggled to bring more to the role. Every cliché is present here: the fresh young journalist on the trail of a story; the veteran newspaper editor with advice to pass on; the cop who’s in over his head and wants to get out; the corrupt politician overseeing everything. Edison is clearly influenced by the likes of Chinatown and LA Confidential, but sadly fails to deliver.

The surprise here is Cool J, who puts in perhaps his best performance to date, making the most of what is a limited character. McDermott, on the other hand, overacts to the point of becoming a pantomime villain, while Freeman and Spacey (good as they are) just aren’t given enough to work with. Meanwhile, Timberlake, plainly out of his depth, limps from one scene to the next in what is a very bad piece of casting. With his first feature, writer/director David J Burke clearly had some good ideas, but is hampered by his own script with its fair share of plot holes, poor dialogue and a ridiculous shoot-out ending that seems tacked on as an afterthought.

There are a few positives, though – some interesting cinematography and a brutal fight sequence between McDermott and Cool J. Also, the film is almost worth the price of a rental to see Timberlake get beaten to a pulp.

Almost, but not quite.

Reviewed on: 21 Jan 2007
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Police corruption in the ex-murder capital of America is exposed by a rookie reporter.
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Director: David J Burke

Writer: David J Burke

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Justin Timberlake, L L Cool J, Dylan McDermott, John Heard, Cary Elwes, Roselyn Sanchez, Damien Wayans

Year: 2005

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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