Homicide (1991); dir. David Mamet

Bobby Gold:  “You’re right.  I’m a piece of shit.”–Homicide

Joe Mantegna:  “Nobody really talks like this…  it isn’t real… it’s hyper-real.”–Invent Nothing, Deny Nothing, a special feature included on the Criterion release of Homicide

Turn on a television with some sort of cable hook-up anywhere in an English-speaking country, then lay flat on your back and do sit-ups (or bicycle crunches, which the American Council on Exercise finds to be most useful).  Do this until someone on TV repeats his-or-herself.  Or you see the same commercial twice.  Or two different commercials for equal products.  Or another person reiterates another person’s opinion, which you just heard, verbatim.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Back already?  How do your abs feel?  Less than sore?

It’s hard to tell when this started, and I certainly won’t blame David Mamet.  Repetition has always been key; either in the attempt to gain muscle-mass, or to force a person to believe your way.  Repetition is key.  But there has been a certain “Mametian” quality to advertisements, edu-tainment, and programming since I can recall.  He is, of course, not the first (the Catholic Church has Scripture readings set aside for every day of the year, but the sermon is the editorial), but the way in which he uses language does have a habit of sending people reeling, especially actors.

Homicide is only 102 minutes long.  It’s not Mamet’s best film (that still is House of Games), but it’s his most strangely personal.  Det. Bobby Gold [Joe Mantegna] is working two cases: 1) catching Robert Randolph [Ving Rhames], which he isn’t even technically a part of due to FBI involvement, police bureaucracy, and anti-semitism; 2) and his serendipitous “catching” the murder of an elderly Jewish woman.  Gold is half-Jewish, half-Italian (the Italian part being implied); and while the former case simply needs good police work, the latter becomes a consuming interest (and later vendetta).

If you’ve seen a David Mamet film, then you know what I mean when describing it as Mamet-All-The-Way!!!… at least for the first 20 minutes.  It eventually turns into a parboil of a thriller where a man, who for all intents and purposes hates himself, chooses to stand by those who actually judge him the most harshly (but who also accept him… sorta).  There are amazingly clunky scenes (the fact that Gold constantly forgets his gun won’t holster is a bother; anytime two characters are alone to chat it becomes a class in Non-Exposition 101), but they also seem to fit.  Gold is angry, when explaining, that he’s been relegated to Hostage Negotiator, but everyone seems in awe of what he can do with his words (though if the movie is canon, we only see Gold simply agree with other people… usually on their terms).  His partner, Sullivan (William H. Macy) seems more concerned with what they’ve made together (as if they were a family) than anything else.  But there is NOT a long con… or heist (farewell Mamet-All-The-Way!!!).  It’s simple realization without redemption.

There is an amazing scene (also, amazingly wordless), where Gold seems to go through all of his childlike wonder and respect (even pausing over a tableau of toy police officers).  He even stops to read the anti-Jew propaganda, a variation he’s heard all his life (and semi-believed), before coming out on a different side.

Proof positive that he can write a snipe-hunt better than anyone, but an action scene is beyond him.  Until Redbelt, which was categorically amazing for all the same reasons.  There are nuggets of interest for anyone, sometime divine-numerology based, but important nonetheless.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the various female secretaries who serve at the behest of the menfolk, doing such things as finding files or making copies.  If you think I’m reaching, pay attention to the female police officer who says “Good Morning.” in every police station scene.  Nobody responds to her.  Then they dump all the crap they need researching on her.  Sadly, the same goes true for the Jewish library.

For the esoteric, pair this with Pi (1998).  For the spawn-killer, watch Kidnapped (2006-07)-NBC.


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