Edison Force

20 08 2009

Director: David J. Burke

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, Dylan McDermott, Justin Timberlake

Released: Direct to DVD (2005)

I recently discovered Edison Force on Amazon.com. I knew that Justin Timberlake had been working on a movie with Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman a few years ago (when you’re an *NSYNC fan you know these types of things) but had never heard anything about it after it was filmed.

It didn’t take long to find out why.

The plot, about an elite team of special forces police officers – who just happen to be corrupt – in the city of Edison who are discovered and exposed by a crack journalist, is decent, and probably could have done fairly well, had it not been coupled with the script which Freeman, McDermott, LL Cool J and Timberlake have to muddle through.

The opening scenes of the movie place you directly in the field with McDermott and Cool J who are officers on the F.R.A.T. task force. Suspense is high as cross-fire interrupts an Irish Dance competition and one of the dancers faces a scary reality. Cut to (presumably) that night and McDermott and Cool J are again after criminals, this time druggies in the underdeveloped side of Edison. Once again, camera angles, music and lighting place a heavy emphasis on suspense and drama as these two officers bust the two dealers in an abandoned house. The viewer knows that the movie can’t continue choppily jumping around with the two officers saving the day in different scenarios so it’s obvious that something will happen. It’s also obvious what that something is – the two are corrupt. And even more predictably, one is questioning his conscience as he goes through the motions.

Enter Justin Timberlake’s character: Josh Pollack, a fresh-faced young journalist at the hometown newspaper. He’s the one assigned to cover the court case of one of the drug dealers and he’s crack reporter that uncovers the internal corruption rotting Edison from the inside out just by noticing that the dealer says “thank you” to LL Cool J.

Makes sense, right? Well, no, not really if you look at everything else Timberlake’s character does. Disregards his editor to write a full article when the paper only has space for a brief? Check. Editorializes a hard news piece? Check. Tries to circumvent the PR process at the local police to get the story? Check. Doesn’t understand Federal Freedom of Information Act basics? Check.

Full disclosure: I worked as a journalist for the past four years.

There are certain things you learn in that time and there is NO way that any hometown newspaper would hire a reporter, especially a court reporter, without that experience. This character, however, knows next to nothing about channels of communication in print media. FOIA, Public records laws are a non-entity for him and allegations are a completely acceptable form of journalism.

I literally laughed out loud at how clueless this journalist was.

If you look past that, however, and suspend your disbelief that a journalist knows none of these things and that A-list actors decided this was a good choice in their careers, the movie is enjoyable. It’s very compelling when you see how F.R.A.T. is trying to intimidate Pollack, as that does, in fact, happen in the journalism world. It’s also entertaining to watch Morgan Freeman, Pollack’s editor, try to teach this horrible reporter how to break a story.

The movie tires itself out, though. By the end there are only two things that can happen: Timberlake dies, or Timberlake’s story gets published. Publishing the story, however, wasn’t enough for writers. Instead, everything had to come up smelling like roses. The story gets published, F.R.A.T. goes down, the cop with a conscience finds a way to get out of the business and everyone ends up living Happily Ever After. It’s a contrived ending to a contrived story.

If you like watching Justin Timberlake, this movie is pleasant. If you like corrupt cop vs. journalist movies, it’s intriguing. If you like good, believable movies? Ones in which the actors disappear and take on the persona of their characters? In which you take the time to learn the characters names? It’s not for you.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s really crappy, but the final vote on this one: BAD

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