Retro Film Review: The Mod Squad (1999)

in #aaa2 months ago


One of greatest mysteries of today's Hollywood is the practice of remaking ancient television shows into contemporary-themed feature films. The presumably built-in audience – original fans – are usually people in their 40ies and 50ies, very unlikely to flock to cinema theatres like today's teenagers do. All that was apparently of little concern to producers who green-lighted The Mod Squad, 1999 thriller written and directed by Scott Silver and based on TV show that used to be popular in late 1960s and early 1970s.

The plot of the film is set in present-day Los Angeles and deals with three juvenile delinquents. Julie Barnes (played by Claire Danes) is former drug addict, sentenced for assault. Peter Cochran (played by Giovanni Ribisi) is a child of wealthy Beverly Hills family who got sentenced for theft. Lincoln "Linc" Hayes (played by Omar Epps) is young black man sentenced for arson. All three are given the freedom in exchange for becoming police informers. LAPD Captain Greer (played by Dennis Farina) has them set up as "The Mod Squad" - elite group that could infiltrate top Los Angeles clubs and other places where conventional police informers can't go. Their latest case, involving theft of drugs from police storage room, goes terribly wrong when Captain Greer gets killed. Three "cops" become suspects and must start their own investigation in order to clear their names. The trail leads to drug dealers, corrupt policemen and even more corrupt pop music producers.

With title being incomprehensible to overwhelming majority of people born after 1970s, The Mod Squad looks like a film lost in time and made without any purpose. Most of the fans of the original series are probably going to be alienated from the bland characters that populate new version and weak, mostly humourless plot full of cliches and predictabilities. Particularly telling example of screenwriter's ineptness is the annoying habit of villains to come at the exact time and place where their evil schemes could be overheard by protagonists. Otherwise dependable young actors like Danes, Ribisi and Epps seem lost in one-dimensional and unconvincing characters. On the other hand, the film at times entertains the audience. BC Smith's musical score, inspired by 1970s soundtracks, provides somewhat surreal atmosphere. Even better is Michale Lerner in the role of flamboyant music producer and his dance scene is one of those brief and rare moments that make The Mod Squad tolerable.

RATING: 3/10 (+)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on October 19th 2004)

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