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"Homicide" — (Bullz-Eye DVD Review)

September 20, 2009

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David Mamet’s third film starts out exactly like the Mamet cop movie you think you want to see – a detailed, literate, and darkly funny police procedural. But what begins like a sort of dry run for the classic ‘90s TV series, “Homicide: Life on the Street,” right down to its Baltimore locations, becomes a somber examination of the meaning of being Jewish in modern America and, more broadly, the dangers of excessive identity politics. Indeed, the warning the film delivers about the dangerous side of ethnic identity is so stark that it’s easy to wonder whether the Mamet of today – a stridently outspoken observant Jew and a self-outed conservative – wouldn’t have written a different story entirely.

“Homicide” stars the man I still consider the ultimate Mamet actor, Joe Mantegna, as Bobby Gold, a homicide detective who specializes in negotiating with suspects. We later learn, however, that the specialty might not have been entirely by choice because Officer Gold has something to prove. Being Jewish, he’s had to deal with an assumption that he is a soft and unphysical nebbish, so proving his toughness by being “first in the door” is a must and being assumed to have the gift of gab is almost a plus. (Almost everyone in a Mamet production has that gift, in any case.) Moreover, perhaps because he’s had to deal with a fair amount of abuse his whole life because of his identity, he seems to have internalized the bigotry and become a real-life version of a frequent mythological figure in intra-Jewish political battles – the “self-hating Jew.”

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****

A bit of prime Mamet which means, of course, verbally entirely NSFW.

Now, time for a cooling walk.

From → arthouse movies

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