Courtesy Photo
** stars 94 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, March 26, 1999
Directed by Scott Silver

Starring Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi, Omar Epps, Dennis Farina, Josh Brolin, Steve Harris & Richard Jenkins


Very visual movie without much else going for it, save Claire Danes' midrif. If I can't talk you out of it, at least get it in letterbox so you can appreciate the movie's handsome look.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 8/17/99

Delinquents- cum- cops feature film revival as bad as TV show ever was

By Rob Blackwelder

That fact that "The Mod Squad" opens with a dictionary definition of "mod" appearing on the screen -- altered to include Generation Y hipsters -- did not bode well for the intelligence level to which this movie was aiming.

The fact that this definition was followed by another for the word "squad" left me with little hope that the pic would have anything going for it besides 90 minutes of Claire Danes in tummy tops.

Then came the opening credits with psychedelically colored, MTV-edited mug shots of Linc (Omar Epps), Pete (Giovanni Ribisi) and Julie (Danes) -- who are convicted juvies working undercover for the LAPD -- accompanied by a voice over saying things like "this little girl was as hard as the come." Claire Danes? Please! She can't even walk tough without looking like one shoe is missing a heel.

The latest in a barrage of so-called "classic" TV shows adapted for the big screen, "The Mod Squad" is a real stretch. The 1968-1972 B-grade cop show about three far out delinquents narc-ing for the pigs, man, was never exactly quality programming to begin with (Early Aaron Spelling. Need I say more?), and this feature film doesn't try very hard to improve on it.

Directed by Scott Silver ("johns"), the picture is largely soundtrack over substance and doesn't even bother filling in the blanks regarding how or why our heroes came to be cops. Instead it rushes to introduce a resolved-in-an-hour, TV-style plot about drugs missing from an evidence locker, crooked cops and a couple of low-rent pimps/mobsters who, by some wild coincidence, each have a connection to Julie, Linc or Pete.

When their police department mentor (Dennis Farina) is framed and murdered, the mod squad, which has never been viewed favorably by the rest of the cops in the precinct, sets out to solve the crime on their own, amidst a backdrop of wah-wah guitar action sequence music and the requisite cop movie running gags.

"I feel like one of us should say 'I'm gettin' too old for this s---,'" Pete complains, as if acknowledging it somehow excuses the movie's complete lack of originality or common sense.

My favorite scene is the one in which for no logical reason two ski-masked white guys break into Linc's ghetto pad and start shooting up the joint in broad daylight.

The sad thing is, "The Mod Squad" is a waste of three good, young leads. Danes has already established herself as one of the better actresses of her generation in varied roles in films like "Little Women," "Home for the Holidays," "U-Turn" and "The Rainmaker." She gets the most character to chew on here with a sub-plot about a much older ex-lover (Josh Brolin) who comes back into her life. Their relationship is poorly established and, of course, he must inevitably be one of the bad guys. But Danes makes their rekindling of believable nonetheless.

Ribisi ("Saving Private Ryan," "The Other Sister"), as the unhinged clown of bunch, and Epps ("Higher Learning," "Juice") as the stoic Linc, whose vintage Lincoln Continental gets repeatedly battered in one of those running gags, share a resentful dodge and parry lifted from the "Lethal Weapon" movies, but somehow manage to freshen it up a tad.

But aside from successfully giving his picture an early '70s revivalist air, which seems to be in vogue in crime movies this year ("Payback," "The Corruptor"), Silver has very little to offer in the way of consistency, ingenuity or flair.

If it looks like a bad '70s cop show, sounds like a bad '70s cop show and has a plot like a bad '70s cop show, what's the point of making a feature film? Just watch a bad '70s cop show, if you can find one.

Funny thing is, even in a world of 100-plus cable channels, bad '70s cop shows haven't been revived. This movie is a cogent reminder that there's a good reason for that.

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