Driven by a twisting, well fleshed out script and some very well honed performances, 1990’s Internal Affairs is a police crime-thriller about the investigations into corruption in a Los Angeles police precinct. Ambitious and well liked cop Raymond Avila (Andy Garcia) joins the department’s Internal Affairs Division where his first assignment is to investigate a former colleague (William Baldwin) who is linked to a possible evidence plant. His initial investigations hint at something more sinister going on in the department and his attention is soon diverted towards respected cop and attentive family man Dennis Peck (Richard Gere).
This movie was recently recommended to me and I can understand its appeal. The script is tight and well written and I was kept on tender hooks by the various twists and reveals. The story goes down avenues you don’t expect from the setup and the characters are wonderfully created and performed. Richard Gere’s Dennis Peck in particular turns into something I haven’t seen the actor become before. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with Gere as I’ve often found him to be too clean cut and weedy. Here he is anything but, playing a vicious, womanising, near psychopath who builds and builds in a creepy and quite way as the film progresses. Andy Garcia’s Raymond Avila is tormented by his prey and the interactions and bust ups between the two are some of the highlights of the film.
Early on I suspected that the LAPD corruption story was going to be linked to the film’s release period, the early 90s being quite obviously a difficult time for the department. The ideas of planting evidence and beating up witnesses soon disappear though and the film becomes something very different. What I liked was that the movie kept me on my toes. I was rarely able to second guess it and you’re never quite sure when or how people are going to get their comeuppance. The gradual breakdown of Andy Garcia’s character is excellently handled and it seems to both come out of nowhere but also build slowly in the background. His anguished performance also keeps the film on a knife edge. Both leads are excellent but it was Richard Gere who really surprised me. His malice and lack of respect for the social order was spectacular. His charm added to his edgy performance as he seemed capable of dropping the underwear of any female character.
One of the problems with the movie is how quickly it’s aged but I can’t really fault the film for looking dated because it’s nearly a quarter of a century old. It would be wrong to comment too heavily on the hair and costumes but I will say that very few eras have aged quite so badly fashion wise as the late 80s and early 90s. The aging I’m thinking about though is with regards to the technical aspects of the movie. The score is crude and very much of its time while the cinematography features periods of slow motion in action and sex scenes which you only ever see in films from the period. I quite liked the imagined flashbacks, filmed under harsh blue lighting but there was little of else of the film’s look that I enjoyed. Even the set dressing felt clunky and drab. Luckily the film is saved by the performances and script which is what elevates it above mundane and towards something half decent.
- It has been reported that leads Garcia and Gere didn't get on and that some of the scenes in which they scrap were a little more real than the director intended. Garcia subsequently refused to attend the wrap party.
- The movie features an early appearance from a very young Elijah Wood.