Horsemen

Certificate: 18
Running time: 90 mins
Director: Jonas Ákerlund
Starring:  Dennis Quaid, Clifton Collins Jr, Lou Taylor Pucci
Genre: Thriller
Format: DVD
Country: United States

When the writer of The Expendables and Doom and the director of Spun and several music videos team up what do you expect?  Can you expect a happy marriage between the scriber of entertaining popcorn flicks and the Swede who’s big with Metallica?

Recently bereaved Detective Aidan Breslin (Quaid) is called to a crime scene with a difference, where there’s usually tape, forensics and a corpse sits a plate of human teeth.  As Breslin works the case and taunted by the killers message “Come and See” he begins to connect the crimes to a bigger picture than he could have possible imagined.

The signs were less than good from the outset, forgetting the fact that what was actually ordered for viewing was The Horseman (Australian vengeful father thriller) but what arrived was a Detective story that within the first two minutes establishes itself safely within the conventions of the cop genre.  The number of widowed cop movies already in existences means that Horsemen is up against the odds from the out.  There is hope though in the form of two men with three names each…Clifton Curtis Jr & Barry Shabaka Henley both of which are always worth investing your time in.

Quaid is solid, with years comes experience and in his face is a wealth of experience and you can buy the fact that he’s a cop who’s been dealt a bad hand recently but the characterisation is heavy handed and a lot of the time what (I guess) is grieving comes across as boredom.  He has glimpses of good but the material he’s given just isn’t enough for him to give anything more than good.  Ziyi Zhang (Kristin) is usually a wonderful actress, her performance in 2046 is a demonstration of everything that is beautiful about cinema but in this she is horribly miscast and just annoying.  Credit should be given for the attempt to play against “type”.  Collins Jr (Stingray) is perhaps one of the best supporting actors out there to be under used in Hollywood.  He was brilliant in Tigerland, brilliant in Capote but is generally given the job of exposition as directors just don’t seem to understand how to bring out his enormous talent. Horsemen is frustratingly no exception as he pops up at crime scenes to bring Breslin and the audience up to speed before bowing out and back to the wings.  How can they cast him and give him nothing?  That’s the crime you should be investigating.  The calibre of the support cast is of equal par of Collins Jr but again with Henley (as the coroner Tuck) and Paul Dooley (as Father Whiteleather) are used as little more than footnotes at the bottom of the script.  They’re like Ferrari’s you don’t take out of the garage.  They’re amazing when you’re pushing them to the limits, you can look at them parked and still enjoy them but it’s nothing like the feeling when they’re at their best.  The two actors who genuinely shine through the little they are given to do are Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous) as Corey and Lou Taylor Pucci (as Breslin’s eldest son Alex).  Pucci manages to craft a little film of his own and the complexity of a grieving son and all the issues that comes with that and having an absent father is brilliant.

The soundtrack is manipulative and lead footed as it delivers emotions by numbers in an attempt to make up for the lack of audience involvement.  Some scenes would play must better without it at all as the visuals at times are actually really impressive and Ákerlund’s ability to linger in a moment is impressive, right and completely unexpected from a director of music videos.  Visually the film does have a lot to be pleased about as it looks extremely good.  The metallic blues are indicative of Michael Mann (Thief, Heat), the sickly green of early Fincher (Se7en, The Game) and the muted greys all work well to create a city of dangerous leaning shadows and gritty urban reality that helps ground the pseudo supernatural overtones that exist within the film.

The biggest problem with Horsemen is the foundations.  The script is begged, borrowed and stolen from a lot of excellent detective films but it’s never brave enough to stray away from the path laid out by these films.  Instead it’s happy to retrace their steps but not even with any conviction.  There is minimum characterisation, the vast majority of the dialogue is exposition and is almost as clunky as terrible as the two CSI spin offs.  Great dialogue is difficult but seems easy, The Wire has raised the bar for writing, especially in the “cop” genre and Horsemen doesn’t even have to limbo under the bar it can walk on its tip toes under it wearing a ten gallon hat.  It’s obvious that Dave Callaham (writer) has heard the voices of Andrew Kevin Walker and Andrew W. Marlowe in his head when constructing the world in which Horsemen exists and it’s not that it sits uncomfortably it’s that it’s lazy and plodding.  The ending of the film is an issue, not that you can’t see it coming…you can but it’s more of a case that after 45 minutes you’ve probably stopped caring.

Horsemen tries so hard to be the thrillers we’ve seen and loved but it’s lazy and by definition we’ve seen it all before, it will however remind you of the films you wish you were watching.









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