SpikeTV // 2008 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 20th, 2009
These streets hit back.
Spike TV dips its toes into the original TV movie market with this hard-boiled tale of an off-the-book cop squad that runs around punching bad guys in the spleen.
Forget one loose cannon cop. S.I.S. gives you four loose cannon cops. And they're all live wires. Led by a gritty frowny-pants named Melville (Matt Nable) and taking orders from a captain who's kind of a loose cannon in his own right (Keith David), these guys (and girl) patrol the streets of Los Angeles, using extreme force if necessary. And believe you me, it's necessary all the damn time.
When one of their own is capped in an arrest gone wrong, the team lands a new cop, Billy Beckett (Peter Stebbings) who's even a looser cannon than everyone else. The squad's target: a psychopath named Vic who's planning the mother of all diamond robberies.
This isn't too bad -- for a made-for-TV movie. Gritty cop flicks are a dime a dozen, as are gritty cop TV shows, but S.I.S. does enough to stand out from the pack. The whole production is a two-hour-pilot for a series and probably the best compliment I can slide the film's way is this: I'd actually be interested in checking this out as a TV show.
The comparison to The Shield is inevitable: both shows have strike teams that bend the law and run amok in Los Angeles with brass questioning their motives and actions. Of course The Shield is far superior and a whole lot edgier, but who says there can't be room for more than one hard-ass cop saga set in L.A.? Not me, for sure, and if you can get past those comparisons, there is entertainment to be found here.
Much of the pilot's success can be attributed to the cast of characters that make up the S.I.S. (which stands for Special Investigation Section, and, yes, that is a pretty lame name for a black ops police attack squad), a solid selection of alpha males with a cool but under-utilized woman joining the party. The tenuous relationship between Melville and Beckett drives the dramatic tension of the squad; they're essentially the same person -- damaged, ill-tempered, and frowny -- so naturally they're going to at each other's throats. This dynamic isn't close to resolved by the time the movie ends, pointing towards an extended these-guy-need-to-learn-to-play-nice-together arc in the series. Beckett has a particularly odd affectation: the ghost of a young black girl who he mistakenly killed in a bust gone sideways. As it stands, the rest of the crew are merely props, with the exception of Keith David who lays the Keith David shtick on nice and thick and if I have to explain what that means then you need to go out and do some more living, friend.
Storywise, it's all fairly straightforward: the villain is your typical dickhead after a major score and our heroes have to stop them. Their investigative work is nothing special, i.e. smack around a couple of informants, but the payoff is good stuff. There's a big shootout in the Diamond District and a handful of some decent fisticuffs. Again, nifty, well-staged action for a made-for-TV movie.
Sony's got an economy DVD for you: a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen that is largely well-rendered save for some spots of softness and grain and a solid 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. The lack of extras is mystifying, especially is Spike wishes to build up hype for a series.
Not too shabby for what it is. I can see potential for the world of the S.I.S.'ers.
Not guilty. Ka-pow!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated