Movie Review - McCanick

David Morse (left) and Trevor Morgan
in a scene from "McCanick"
There were three reasons why I wanted to see this film. One is that it's set in my hometown of Philadelphia. Director Josh C. Waller photographs the city wondrously, capturing the beauty and ugliness in a way that only Los Angeles, New York and Chicago get. Secondly, the cast is great. Every actor is from a pretty great TV show. It's also notable as being Cory Monteith's final film before his shocking death.

David Morse (St. Elsewhere and Treme) anchors as the titular character, Eugene McCanick, a veteran detective with the Philadelphia Police Department. The entire film takes place in one 24-hour period. That period is McCanick's 59th birthday. Except, it's not a happy birthday. The opening image is a wide-shot of a half-naked McCanick sitting alone and depressed in the top floor of his Philly row home, as the camera slowly pushes toward him.

Something is bothering McCanick or Mack, but we're not clued to what until he has a conversation with his police captain Jerry Quinn, played by CiarĂ¡n Hinds. Mack is upset because a convict named Simon Weeks, played by Cory Monteith (Glee and Kyle XY), has been released.

Without telling his captain, Mack goes out with his younger partner Floyd Intrator, played by Mike Vogel (Under the Dome and Bates Motel), to hunt down Simon. Mack tells Floyd that Simon is a suspect in the murder of a politician, but with all the investigating, Mack keeps Floyd at arm's length. The reason is because Mack is a liar. He wants to find Simon not because he's a murder suspect but for another reason.

That reason is kept hidden until the very end. There are a series of flashbacks that slowly reveal what that reason is. The flashbacks are seven years ago and it's learned that Mack had a relationship with Simon. The flashbacks show them spending more and more time together, and you wonder to what end.

The flashbacks are interspersed with scenes in the present of Mack doing incredibly horrible things to get to Simon. He tortures three low-level drug dealers, including Carl, played by Aaron Yoo (The Tomorrow People), and Louis, played by Trevor Morgan (ER). He lies and emotionally manipulates a teacher Alice, played by Tracie Thoms (Cold Case). He even shoots and kills people who get in his way.

The hope is that screenwriter Daniel Noah makes Mack's reason for doing all these horrible things somewhat justified. In the meantime, Waller pulls us along with some interesting filmmaking. He has a shot here that is reminiscent of a scene in David Fincher's Seven. He crafts a great chase through South Philly that's perhaps too long but is exhausting in a good way. There's also some good cross-editing that ping pongs us between past and present.

Once Mack's reason for chasing Simon is revealed, I was unsure how I felt about it. At first, I thought it was quite homophobic. I thought Mack's actions were what some refer to as "gay panic." This is when someone commits a crime or a violent act on a gay person and blames it on that gay person for making a sexual advance.

Simon says he's not gay, but he does work as a hustler, having sex with men for money or drugs. There's an indication that Simon might be somewhat of a pimp. Yet, it gets to a point where he kisses Mack and makes out with him for almost a minute.

Mack's manhood is insulted. Up until that point, Mack comes off as a man's man. He's very stoic and very much an isolationist. He has the body of a boxer. He's seen hitting a punching bag. He's borderline Vic Mackey from The Shield. Early on, Floyd in a far off manner challenges Mack's manhood, particularly when Floyd eats a cheese-steak, while somewhat mocking Mack for eating a salad, but there's no other indication that any question exists of Mack's sexuality. He's just a brute who perhaps has somewhat of a heart, so it's simply never clear what Mack wants. He claims he wants to be a better father, but him chasing after Simon all feels incongruous.

Waller's film is a somewhat thrilling drama but minus the drama and replaced with mystery. Morse and Monteith run around Philly with no discernible character development for either. Like one of the characters, things stop when only because he becomes tired, as the film also becomes tired.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language, some strong violence and brief drug content.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.
Available on Netflix Streaming.


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