5 August 2002 | rmax304823
People couldn't wait for Rizzo to be elected mayor of Philadelphia. He was a popular, inarticulate, authoritarian Chief of Police. (He's the chief that Sidney Poitier talks to on the phone in "In The Heat of the Night.") The city had become positively dangerous by the early 1970s. I lived there at the time and was repeatedly burglarized, as some of my friends were repeatedly raped (on campus at the University of Pennsylvania, and in their dorm rooms too). The liquor store I patronized had bullet holes in its windows. Most shop keepers in my neighborhood either carried pistols in their belts or kept them hidden under the counter. It was like Dodge City without Wyatt Earp. So Rizzo was elected. And, as promised, he reduced the crime rate, although the streets never really became safe again. He reduced the crime rate in two ways. One -- and I'm guessing at this -- is by bringing pressure on his police officers not to officially report crimes brought to their attention. I'm guessing that this is true because the process of recording or not recording index crimes according to political circumstances is universal. It can affect the number of crimes one way or another by forty percent or more. The second way, as shown in this film, is simply by permitting the already existing violence by the police force to increase unchecked. Clobber them. And yet the film disappoints. Rob Morrow is an interesting actor, and Paul Sorvino does fine as Frank Rizzo, one of whose first acts as mayor was to appoint his brother as head of the Fire Department. ("It's a total surprise!" said the delighted brother at the time.) But that's about it as far as the film's virtues go. It's a rather low-budget "All the President's Men," without any of that film's strong points. The script is done pretty much by the numbers. The direction is poor in many respects, including camera placement. A scene involving a conversation between Morrow and another character seems to have been shot from across the street, so there are constantly vehicles passing between us and them, which is unnecessary and annoying. The dialogue is mundane. There are hints of past evildoings that sound like made-up threats. If Lumet had got hold of this, things might have happened. As it is, well -- if there's nothing else on, and you don't expect too much....