The Mod Squad (1999)

Directed by Scott Silver
Written by Stephen T. Kay, Kate Lanier & Scott Silver
Starring Claire Danes, Omar Epps, Giovanni Ribisi, Dennis Farina, Josh Brolin

My Advice: Wait for MST3K.

Three young people are thrown together as an undercover crime unit designed to get in where those pesky grown-ups can't.  They have a choice: fight crime or get tossed in the slammer, since they're all convicted felons.  However, something is Denmark in the state of rotten at their base of operations since drugs turn up missing, gunshots are fired and cops end up dying.

Of all the films adapted from vintage television shows, this one holds the record for being the most useless and debilitating.  It feels like a bloody TV movie of the week and that's what it should have been if someone simply had to make the film.  The script is tired and probably only forty-five pages long--most of the film is padded with groovy music segues, scenes of the three leads standing or sitting around contemplating their messed up lives ("Why are we so misunderstood?"), scenes of all three of them walking together so there'll be plenty of those shots for the trailer, or just dialogue that will get all of the writers involved a couple of centuries in screenwriters' purgatory.  Taking away all of that would give you about an hour-long film, I swear--which makes me wonder if this didn't start out as a TV series pilot that got rejected.  And then it still would have been too long, especially since the only plot device not patently obvious in the first five minutes is Michael Lerner's screwed-up hair.

Now don't get me wrong: there is something positive in all of this mess.  One thing anyway--Ribisi's performance as the screw-up of the trio.  He manages to make the best of a bad situation, taking the Anthony Hopkins Dracula Method and going for the way-overly caffeinated interp.  He breaks cars, he points guns at random, and he breaks down easily, earning the film it's only half-an-asterisk.  Epps does all right with his stoic act, but it's obvious he's thinking about firing his agent the whole time.  I'd mention Danes, but I can't think of a single reason to.  Bailey asked me if I would talk about what the film could have been, but I don't want to do that.  I want to instead ask them to apologize and remove this from theaters.

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