Sometimes all it takes is a great actor to make an uneven movie worth watching. Michael Keaton brings everything he's got to One Good Cop. Written and directed by Heywood Gould, the film is effectively two different films - a hard-boiled cop thriller and a family drama. Unfortunately, the two halves don't quite coexist as cleanly as they could, but Keaton navigates the film's unevenness with a committed and intense performance. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings the film to Blu-ray with a great A/V presentation and an audio commentary that proves to be a great listen. Fans should be pleased with this release. Recommended.
Casting can make or break a movie. Take a great script and a good director but populate it with actors stretching past their natural reach and the project falls apart. On the flip side, if you take a mediocre movie and give it a great cast, it can overcome its worst aspects and be something memorable. Such is the case with Heywood Gould's One Good Cop starring Michael Keaton, Rene Russo, Anthony LaPaglia, and Kevin Conway. With Keaton giving it his all and leading the pack, an uneven story about a gritty N.Y.P.D. narcotics detective who inherits his deceased partner's three children manage to be something better than what its fractured script allows.
Artie Lewis (Michael Keaton) is one of the best detectives in the narcotics division. Along with his single father partner Stevie (Anthony LaPaglia), they make their cases and take a few scraps along the way - but they go home alive. When a hostage situation involving a guy high on Ice goes south and Stevie is killed, Artie and his wife Rita (Rene Russo) inherit three little girls they're unready for. As they struggle to figure out their roles as new parents, Artie is consumed with a need for revenge upon the dealer Beniamino (Tony Plana) who sold the drugs that got his partner killed.
On the surface of things, One Good Cop is essentially two very different movies at war with each other. On one end, Heywood Gould crafted a gritty and dark cop thriller that would echo his work on the 1977 exploitation revenge flick Rolling Thunder and 1981's Fort Apache the Bronx. The other side is a heartfelt familial drama about a husband and wife who suddenly have to give up everything about themselves and become parents a la Robert Benton's 1979 film Kramer vs Kramer. Caught between the two story extremes is Michael Keaton as the cop out for revenge who also desperately wants to become a good father. Had One Good Cop featured a lesser actor, this ship would have sunk into the murky depths of mediocre obscurity.
While much of the credit for how well this film works falls on Keaton's shoulders, he doesn't square the weight alone. For the heartfelt family drama, Rene Russo amiably plays the supportive but concerned wife. When she's called to be a mother she fits the role naturally while overcoming the hurdles of becoming a new parent. For the rough and tough cop story, Keaton is backed up by a terrific turn by Anthony LaPaglia. It's almost a shame he's killed off so quickly because you can see he's giving it everything he's got and manages to keep pace with Keaton in each of their scenes.
Like I said, a great cast can make or break a movie. Thankfully this cast works their asses off and manages to keep the film afloat even though it's two starkly different stories don't coexist evenly. In truth, One Good Cop could have easily just been one or the other story and worked out fine. As a rough and tough cop revenge flick, it's a good action-packed suspense-driven time. When it's a drama about five people learning to be a family together in the shadow of a tragedy, it's terrific and you genuinely feel for them. When this film tries to be both, you can feel the material stretch a little too far. Thankfully Michael Keaton is there to straddle both films and keep the show working - even if it's a bit clumsy. All around a solid film and you get two hours of good entertainment value out of it.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
One Good Cop arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard Blu-ray case. The disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
While it doesn't quite appear to be a fresh scan, there's very little to complain about with the 1.85:1 1080p transfer provided for this release of One Good Cop. In all honesty, the only slight negative I have to report is a slight speckling here and there and what looks like a little edge enhancement that can stir up a little banding, but neither issue is very severe. The film exhibits fine film grain with strong detail levels throughout the film. Facial features, the late 80s early 90s clothing styles are all on display with good clarity. Colors are solid all around and punch primaries nicely while highlighting the pastel tones that were so common back then. Black levels are nice and inky with good shadow separation giving the image a nice three-dimensional texture to it. Scenes in the confined precinct office or Archie and Rita's cluttered apparent feature some great depth and spacing. Some occasional softness creeps in but nothing too distracting. All around this is a very good transfer for a film of this vintage. It's a notable improvement over the two-movie set Mill Creek issued with A Stranger Among Us in 2013. Fans looking for an upgrade should be pleased with the results here.
Kino Lorber decided to give One Good Cop two good audio mixes. Really, it's a dealer's choice between the English DTS-HD MA 2.0 or DTS-HD MA 5.1 mixes. The 2.0 stereo mix is organic and in keeping with the film's original theatrical presentation with clean dialog, strong levels, and some good elemental spacing. However, if I had to pick one over the other, I'd tip my hat to the 5.1 mix simply because it offers up a little more natural soundscape. Several sequences were shot on the streets of New York and parts of L.A. that doubled for the Big Apple. These open scenes enjoy a little more element spacing with dialogue and sound effects getting a little more natural surround effect. It's not a robust remix mind you. It doesn't sound like any extra sound effects were added so everything sounds natural to the film, it just enjoys a slightly more immersive quality. But like I said, both are good so either way, you slice it you're getting a strong sonic presentation.
While the selection of bonus features may be slim, the included audio commentary is well worth a listen as Heywood Gould offers up a lot of information about the production, the script, and working with the cast.
Audio Commentary featuring writer/director Heywood Gould and moderated by Heather Buckley
Theatrical Trailer (SD 2:09)
A Stranger Among Us Trailer (SD 1:57)
Cop Trailer (SD 2:06)
The Laughing Policeman Trailer (SD 3:35)
Inbetween turns as the Caped Crusader, Michael Keaton felt the need to exercise his dramatic muscles a bit. One Good Cop is a terrific example of how versatile Keaton can be interchangeably playing a tough street-savvy cop and a caring family man. The film may be a bit uneven at times, but Keaton along with his costars Rene Russo, Anthony LaPaglia, Kevin Conway, and a young and energetic Benjamin Bratt keep the film afloat. It's a solid piece of entertainment that may not be the greatest flick ever made, but it's a good time. Kino Lorber Studio Classics issues One Good Cop on one good Blu-ray disc with a strong A/V presentation and a worthwhile audio commentary to round out the bonus features. If you're game for a great performance from Michael Keaton, One Good Cop is an easy tone to call Recommended.