Lionsgate // 2010 // 85 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // July 13th, 2010
I really like cop movies. Whatever the approach -- police procedural, buddy action movie, even a dumb comedy like Kevin Smith's Cop Out -- chances are it's got my attention. There's a good chance that I'll find more to enjoy in a recent entry like Brooklyn's Finest (to which I gave a favorable review) simply because of my affection for the genre. It's a difficult genre to do correctly, but it's also tough to blow completely; even an effort that only repackages the same familiar elements is, at worst, watchable. Then there's something like Caught in the Crossfire, which seems to aspire to nothing more than forgettably passable but blows it in a big way.
I would love to describe the plot of Caught in the Crossfire for you, but that would suggest I understood it -- or that the movie even has a plot to speak of. It seems to tell the story of two cops, Shepherd (Adam Rodriguez, CSI Miami) and Briggs (Chris Klein, Just Friends), who are investigating the murder of a fellow police officer. As they do so, they uncover ties to gang members, confidential informants (like the one played by Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, also an executive producer on the movie, who's only in the movie for all of five minutes despite appearing being featured prominently on the disc jacket) and loads of corruption within the department, leaving them unsure of who to trust. Unfortunately, the film is told in a fragmented style and out of sequence; this in and of itself is not a flaw (Memento, anyone?), but only if the director has enough command of the material to still make everything clear -- or, at least, to make us feel like we're in good hands even while we're in the dark. With so many characters constantly switching allegiances, it becomes nearly impossible to find; even the last few minutes of the film, which appear to be some kind of twist ending, doesn't even totally make sense. That's not good. Caught in the Crossfire is a mess, repeating scenes from different perspectives without any real new context and jumping around in the chronology for the sake of jumping around. It's a dull, involving mess of a movie, not a puzzle that builds and comes together. When it's over, all that's left is a bunch of pieces.
If there's one thing that makes Caught in the Crossfire worth seeing, it's the batsh*t insane performance of Chris Klein. The years have not been kind to Klein's career, and he's pretty much fallen out of favor with Hollywood, as they've discovered the limits of his abilities (though a recent YouTube clip of Klein auditioning for Mamma Mia! suggest his problems are of another variety). Watching him bulge and sweat and mug in the name of "intensity" during Caught in the Crossfire, it's almost impossible to believe that he was once a legitimate movie star of mainstream movies. His turn in Election is nothing short of brilliant (though I would argue it's good casting and not good acting), and he showed a reasonable amount of leading-man sweetness in the first American Pie movie. Admittedly, most of his Hollywood resume is made up of dreck like Here on Earth and the Rollerball remake, but many actors have built long-lasting careers on as much. I don't know if I've seen an actor work so hard as Klein does in Caught in the Crossfire, and I don't mean that in a nice way. Best case scenario, he's striving for the heights of Keanu Reeves in Street Kings. Worst case scenario is what we get in Caught in the Crossfire. It would be way funnier if it wasn't also kind of sad.
Caught in the Crossfire arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate, and the package overall is pretty unimpressive. The 1.78:1-framed, 1080p transfer feels like video rather than film, offering some detail but too much softness and noise overall. The movie is very dark, but black levels are inconsistent and some crushing tends to wipe out finer detail. The DTS-HD audio track is also somewhat problematic, making everything sound muddled (I had to put the subtitles on to understand some of the dialogue) and lacking much power in the action sequences. The only extra features included are a couple of outtakes and a collection of trailers for other releases from Lionsgate.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R