Edison Force – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Writer-Director:

David J. Burke

Cast:

Justin Timberlake………Josh Pollock
Morgan Freeman……….Moses Ashford
LL Cool J……….Raphael Deed
Kevin Spacey……….Levon Wallace
Dylan McDermott……….Sgt. Francis Lazerov
John Heard……….Capt. Bernard Tilman
Cary Elwes……….D.A. Jack Reigert
Roselyn Sanchez……….Maria
Piper Perabo……….Willow

Millennium Films presents Edison Force. Running time: 99 minutes. Rated R (for strong violence and language, and brief drug use). DVD release date: July 18, 2006.


The Movie

Alas, another movie about dirty cops. Most are about officers of the law stuck in a sea of corruption. They want out. But getting out requires nerves of steel and a steady trigger finger.

Edison Force stars Morgan Freeman (quality actor), Kevin Spacey (quality actor) and Justin Timberlake. Huh? How do you go from the guy who played Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects to a former *NSYNC member? Perhaps he went to the bathroom one day, washed his face, looked in the mirror and thought, I want to act. I want to be as big a star as Will Smith. That’s understandable. Will Smith went from being a “Fresh Prince” rapper to become one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Unfortunately, Timberlake doesn’t quite have the charisma as compared to the man who now commands 20 million a film.

For his first starring role Timberlake plays Josh Pollock, a still-wet-behind-the-ears newspaper journalist who works for the free community rag the Heights Herald. Most of the content is reserved for coupons and restaurant advertisements; this leaves little room for columns or features. Pollock is regulated to writing police blotter blurbs. An easy beat until he sees an alleged coke dealer tell his arresting officer “Thank you” in court. Nobody else in the room paid much attention, but those two little words were enough to convince this ambitious young journalist that something much bigger is going on.

Parlaying his hunch of police fraud to his boss, Moses Ashford (Morgan Freeman), a prize-winning photojournalist now content with running coupons instead of headlines, turns out to be a foolish career move. Ashford can’t stand his pupil’s blatant disregard for what he wants: just a blurb, no commentary needed. So, he fires him. The firing was to act as Pollock’s wake-up call to investigative journalism. Write a story about police corruption and it’s like throwing a lit match in a puddle of gasoline. Expect a not-so-nice reaction from the boys in blue.

The officers in question – Raphael Deed (LL Cool J) and Sgt. Francis Lazerov (Dylan McDermott) – belong to the city of Edison’s most elite police unit, FRAT (First Response Assault and Tactical). This SWAT rip-off is a brooding group equipped with semi-automatic weapons, Kevlar body armor and other gun-toting paraphernalia. Deed may appear dirty but he has some integrity. This does not sit well with his partner who sees Deed’s high road mentality as a potential threat to the unit.

It is at this moment where morality becomes a twisted pawn in the clash between civic duty and covert greed. It is also the same plot device that we have come to expect in dirty cop cinema. The only difference is here we have an outsider nosing around, looking at it from another angle. The wave of corruption Pollock finds is not a big surprise considering the participants involved.

And that is what’s wrong with the movie. We’re spoon-fed the information to the point where all that’s left to do is connect the dots.

For a movie inspired by the imprudence of the Edison, New Jersey police force, writer-director David J. Burke still regurgitates the same dirty cop characterizations we’ve seen countless times. They are stale to say the least. The narrative is also on the thin side. This is a shame, especially with some of the talent involved. Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey make the best of the script given to them, but appear to be going through the motions. Their characters are still fun to watch – Spacey is an investigator who works alongside both Freeman and Timberlake. And what about the pop star? Well, he’s the biggest wild card.

His performance is pedestrian. This is to be expected with a first film. But why was he given a lead part? Just because he’s sold millions of records to teenyboppers doesn’t mean he will command attention. Writer-director David J. Burke must have seen something in the auditions that screamed Timberlake must be in this picture.

Sadly, whatever Timberlake did in the casting sessions, he sure as heck didn’t present it when it mattered – on screen. After testing poorly in preview screenings and at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival, Edison Force, then called Edison, was left to sit on the shelf for over a year. Now it is a direct-to-DVD release. Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey are probably grateful they didn’t have to go on the talk show circuit to promote the movie.

Now this is just my opinion, but if I were a producer who had the combined talents of Freeman and Spacey, I would get my money’s worth. Have Timberlake remain fired from the Heights Herald. That way, Freeman could take over the journalistic investigation. With Spacey in tow, the two could chew the scenery a bit more.


The DVD

THE VIDEO
(Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full screen)

While the film is inspired by events involving the Edison police force, the story is not set in New Jersey. For some reason, though, Edison looks a lot like Vancouver. Love those tax breaks. The glass-faced edifices of this metropolis are a stark reminder of absolute power. Few have it or ever get in a position to obtain it – unless you are a part of FRAT. The video image has few imperfections. There is some edge enhancement, but it doesn’t distract the viewer. Scenes that take place behind bars have a bluish hue that gives it a more ominous feeling. The film could have used more of that, especially in scenes that require a darker ambiance.

THE AUDIO
(English 5.1 Dolby Digital & French 5.1 Dolby Digital)

Another thunderous sound track from Sony Pictures. The studio that’s synonymous for the blatant double-dip releases still succeeds in giving its titles good sound and video. The mix is dynamic in 5.1-surround sound; it lends itself well to gunfire and a musical score by Machine Head. Besides the two different audio selections, the disc also includes English and French subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Strictly for the home market, Sony Pictures skimps on the extras. The only notable feature is a paint-by-numbers making-of entitled Absolute Power: Behind the Scenes of Edison Force (12:11). The most vocal participant of the EPK-featurette is Dylan McDermott. Morgan Freeman and Justin Timberlake make a brief appearance. Kevin Spacey is nowhere to be found. Special attention is paid towards Freeman’s Moses Ashford character. Inspiration came from photographer/journalist Eddie Adams, a friend of director David J. Burke. Some of his photographs are on display in Ashford’s apartment.

Also included on the disc are eight trailers: Shadow Man, Underworld: Evolution, Hollow Man 2, End Game, The Detonator, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Ultraviolet and Basic Instinct 2.

THE INSIDE PULSE

A few months ago I reviewed the direct-to-DVD release Dirty. The story was about a black-and-blue patrolman in a precinct loaded with corruption, from the top on down. Edison Force has the same story archetype, but it adds a new element: a journalist uncovering the truth behind the cops’ dirty actions. Essentially, the story is a morality play about doing right in a setting where the citizens are sheep who turn a blind eye to the wolves’ (the police’s) nefarious activities. With a cast that includes both Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey, one would think this has winner written all over it. Unfortunately, the decision to have Justin Timberlake spearhead a picture was a risk that just didn’t pan out. Rent it to see two Oscar winners making the best of it and see how far Timberlake needs to go to be mentioned in the same breath as Will Smith, movie star.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Edison Force
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

3.5
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

7
THE EXTRAS

2
REPLAY VALUE

4
OVERALL
4
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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