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Ten Word or Less Review: Old fashioned Mamet with a harsh ending.

“Homicide” is David Mamet’s 1991 effort about a police officer, Joe Mantenga, having a crisis of conscience which brings his loyalties as a police officer into conflict with his long unacknowledged Jewish faith.  While on his way to a important bust, he gets sidetracked by the murder of an old Jewish lady in her convenience store by shotgun.  Before he can pass the buck onto another officer he gets wrangled into taking the case and finds accusations of conspiracy from her powerful family.  He begins to feel a strange awakening of belonging to these people he has long marginalized in his own mind and begins to wonder if his allegiances in life have all been folly.

“Homicide” is full of Mamet’s trademark, straight in your face dialogue.  His characters don’t so much talk as bark at each other like hardnosed pit bulls.  It’s this style that always draws viewers into his peculiar stories.  Characters with such straight ahead determination and clear view always mesmerize.  Mamet always collects great actors for his ventures who rarely disappoint.  Mantegna once again rises to the occasion under Mamet’s direction.  William H. Macy begins to emerge as a strong character actor here while as yet untapped Ving Rhames gets a memorable scene at story’s end.  And while the performances are universally admirable, Mamet makes a strange decision at tales end.

What surprises more than anything about “Homicide” is its finale, which in a way is foreseeable, but is amazingly cynical.  “Homicide’s” final scene renders our protagonist journey a useless endeavor, his efforts squandered on a exploration which dead ends in a series of revealed contrivances and simple resolutions.  With his focus in doubt and determination wavering, Mantenga becomes the anti-Mamet character.  We take away from his conundrum that we shouldn’t let pangs of religious fulfillment cloud our judgment as to who’s trust worthy and who’s not.  His cop blindly throws himself into this underworld of Jewishness out of misguided sense of belonging, never stopping once to think about who these people really are, what their agenda is and what they might want of him.  He forgets where his loyalties lie, he makes mistakes and in the end he destroys himself.  It’s an odd and emotionally cruel way to wrap up a story.  I can appreciate the guts it took to end “Homicide” on this note, but I can’t shake the sensation that Mamet made his otherwise compelling police drama pointless by doing this.

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