ONE GOOD COP is determined to be all things to all people. It's a buddy movie. It's a gritty cop movie, with drug lords and corruption in high places. It's an action flick, with shootouts and car chases. And it's a warm human drama about a married couple and the three children they adopt
despite many difficulties. It's also an overly ambitious mix of so many elements that no one of them is able to dominate and give the movie shape and tone.
Artie Lewis (Michael Keaton) is a man who divides his loyalty between the New York Police Department, his wife Rita (Rene Russo) and his impulsive partner Stevie Diroma (Anthony LaPaglia), a widower with three small daughters. Despite the ugliness and injustice he sees every day on the streets,
Lewis is proud to be a police detective and convinced that ultimately people get what they deserve. That conviction is sorely tested when Diroma is killed in a hostage negotiation situation. The fate of Diroma's children is uncertain; he has no living relatives, and it looks as though they may
have to go to separate foster homes. Rita and Artie decide that the only thing they can do is take in the three girls, but find that there are many obstacles in their path. Foremost among them: they don't have a large enough apartment to satisfy the child welfare bureau, and on Lewis's salary,
they aren't likely to get one any time in the near future.
Lewis resorts to stealing from loathsome drug dealer Beniamino (Tony Plana) and uses the money to buy a house. But despite his best efforts to make it a clean robbery, the crime has consequences he hadn't anticipated. In particular, he was unaware that Beniamino's girlfriend Grace (Rachel
Ticotin) is an undercover police officer, and her observations during the robbery lead her to believe it is no ordinary drug-related crime. In addition, Lewis's marriage is strained by the difficulties posed by taking care of three frightened, angry children. Despite the complications, Lewis
manages to work things out, and he and Rita set about making a new life for themselves and their instant family.
One wants to like ONE GOOD COP, written and directed by Heywood Gould, a successful screenwriter (1978's THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, 1981's FORT APACHE, THE BRONX), for trying to avoid some of the carved-in-stone cliches of police movies. For example, replacing the DIRTY HARRY-esque alienated
loner-with-a-gun, hunting criminals out of some psychotic compulsion, with a stable family man doing his job for the good of society is unusual enough to be inherently interesting. But it never becomes dramatically compelling. Artie's problems have their own cliched inevitability. Of course one of
the children is chronically ill and needs daily injections, of course another is hostile and withdrawn, of course Rita is overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for them. How could it be otherwise? And one never for a minute doubts that Artie will find a solution, particularly because ONE
GOOD COP was produced by Hollywood Pictures, a division of Disney.
Following his performances in CLEAN AND SOBER and PACIFIC HEIGHTS, Michael Keaton seems to have abandoned his career as a comedian in search of increasingly serious roles. As Artie Lewis, he's earnest to a fault, but never manages to make his character appealing. Former model Rene Russo is a
cipher as Rita, and Grace Johnston, Rhea Silver-Smith and Blair Swanson are cloying as the Diroma girls. ONE GOOD COP gets high marks for good intentions, but its appeal as a film is limited. (Violence, profanity, adult situations.)
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