10 November 2007 | rsoonsa
Overused Plot Business Brings No Surprises.
A common cinema sub-genre is one that may be termed Good Cop vs. The System, wherein an ethical police officer struggles against his corrupt supervisors while striving to remain employed, and here this not very entertaining attempt by director and lead Burt Reynolds easily fits into the category, utilizing nearly every cliché available from a wealth of examples. Oft-used low level helicopter footage, of a South Florida resort skyline backs the opening credits, as Reynolds reads, for a voice-over, lines from a work by Bob Shacochis: his introduction to the anthology "Florida Stories". This obviously would appear to be an attempt to set the film near Miami, yet much of the selected Shacochis text is ironically descriptive of Southern California as well, and additional urban shots are culled from the Los Angeles region, where in fact the work was, for the most part, filmed. This is the first of a featherweight trilogy of "action" films produced for TNT and starring Reynolds, with the "hard time" of the title, a prison sentence served by his character, Detective Logan McQueen, transpiring during this affair's sequel: HARD TIME: THE PREMONITION, but in this work McQueen, sharing a holding tank with other inmates awaiting bail or sentencing, is advised by a transvestite that it can not expect anything less than a "hard time" from its captors. The film begins with McQueen and his Detective partner Charlie Duffy (Charles Durning) atop a downtown roof, deployed there as an anti-graffiti detail, implementing binoculars to espy upon wall scribblers at play, an assignment below contempt in the opinion of Logan, when they spot a street robbery in progress and, after having pursued three suspects a good distance on foot, McQueen brings two of them to bay in an alley dead end. Here occur the events that result in McQueen being locked up, because at the termination of the pursuit, there is a shootout during which one of the trapped bandits is killed, to the peculiar displeasure of the Detective's superiors. He, of course, did not kill the robber, and the remaining portion of the picture relates of McQueen's endeavours to clear his name despite obvious antipathy towards him by the city's law enforcement power structure, including his own Department, in addition to a politically motivated District Attorney's office. Another form of jeopardy to Logan comes from large scale narcotics trafficker Connie Martin (Robert Loggia) from whom was stolen $190000 in the course of the alley escapade, and naturally Martin believes that McQueen has purloined his illicitly gained monies. In the midst of all of this, Duffy's severely overweight condition hampers Logan in the function of his duties, even on "graffiti patrol", but since we learn that Duffy and his wife had adopted McQueen as a youngster, fidelity to the portly Detective has remained steadfast. Flaws in logic and continuity are plentiful, and while a viewer will have nearly immediate awareness that an unidentified police official is corrupt down to the bone, a large cluster of red herrings is infused as an attempt to remove focus from what is palpable to a viewer. Reynolds employs a good many of his preferred personnel for the trilogy, nice paydays indeed for them, but his relaxed and permissive directorial style results in Johnny One Note performances from most of the cast who simply fall back upon habitual stylistics. He himself is rather long in the tooth and a bit connective tissue challenged to fit into his vigorous role, but able stand-ins and post-production editing bring him through the physical stresses of action sequences, none of which is deftly staged. The players treat the drudging screenplay as a mere walk through, often making heavy weather of it. Michael Buie as Higgs, a young police officer who may have morally strayed, gains acting honours here as he creates his part with care while remaining on topic. Too many centres of interest are fostered by the plot, with the hub of the affair becoming police rectitude, although depiction of police protocol, procedures and tactics is often so bizarre as to be risible in addition to being a discouragement to viewers who might be curious enough to see the next two films of the HARD TIME set.