Morse code – McCanick review


By Simon Miraudo
October 21, 2013

The great David Morse is so frequently deployed by directors to improve their films with just a handful of scenes, he’s long since graduated from ‘That Guy’ status. (Perhaps ‘The Guy’ would be a more accurate designation?) The veteran character actor gets a rare leading role in McCanick, an opportunity he does not let go to waste. His casting is perhaps the only unique pleasure to be found in Josh C. Waller‘s feature, however. Despite also employing a time-skipping narrative structure, it neatly walks the thin blue line of previous dirty cop movies. The greatest crime committed here is being too familiar.

The flick takes place over one day; the 59th birthday of Morse’s narcotics detective, Eugene McCanick, no less. His morning begins poorly: with news from his chief (Ciarán Hinds) that a former collar of his, drug dealer and street hustler Simon Weeks (Cory Monteith in his final screen role), has been released back into society. McCanick and Weeks have a history, one neither is really willing to discuss. While Weeks attempts to evade his former arresting officer, McCanick devotes his afternoon to hunting him down and pinning him for the shooting of a colleague.


Daniel Noah’s screenplay is littered with clichés, until it very suddenly isn’t, specifically, in the final act, when the circumstances surrounding Weeks’ arrest emerge. But it’s too little too late. Though we should all be appreciative of sequences in which legendary hard-man Morse leans on suspects in the most brutal manner imaginable, McCanick isn’t the breakout vehicle fans of his have been hoping for.

Monteith passed away of a drug overdose in July, meaning his work in McCanick will remain his final signature in the world of film and television. And to that end, it will likely be the primary reason McCanick is remembered at all. I wish I could report that this is his crowning achievement. Instead, the 31-year-old made a more lasting impression as the wide-eyed Finn Hudson on Glee. Here, he struggles to convey a tragic past and street smarts, no matter how dishevelled he’s made to look.

During one particularly aggressive interrogation, a perp derisively refers to McCanick as ‘Popeye Doyle.’ Evoking The French Connection does this movie no favours. It’s far from a failure, and the final twist – in which Morse reveals that softer side of his not often seen – paints what came before in an intriguing new light. But that revelatory moment feels simply like the last trick up Noah and Waller’s sleeves; an unexpected surprise to make a mostly empty movie seem thoughtful and complex. Cinematographer Martin Ahlgren attempts to class up the pedestrian screenplay with some off-kilter compositions, but there is a certain reality McCanick can’t deny: it’s a meat-and-potatoes cop movie, without the meat.


Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews.

McCanick will be available on Quickflix from October 23, 2013.

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