Eric Roberts

Interrogation (2020) s01e10 – I.A. Sgt. Ian Lynch & Det. Brian Chen vs Trey Carano

The last episode. Finally the last episode. One could come up with the best order to watch the show, which isn’t the episode number order but also doesn’t work entirely randomly because some episodes jump ahead six years and whatnot—also there’s no point in making the order because you shouldn’t watch the show—but the finale’s really a follow-up to the ninth episode. It’s finally Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s episode; it’s 2003, Moss-Bachrach is dying from AIDS, he wants to set the record straight.

See, it turns out Kyle Gallner and Moss-Bachrach had a deal with Hells Angel drug dealer Blake Gibbons to rob Gallner’s parents house. Even though Moss-Bachrach wasn’t there, he’s got a pretty good idea of what happened, which he tells Vincent D’Onofrio and Tim Chiou, who’s back from a few episodes ago. Chiou’s there to keep D’Onofrio from playing detective too much. Given the show opens with text explaining how cold case detectives approach a case, maybe it also should’ve noted there aren’t any cold case detectives in “Interrogation.” None of the cops—save D’Onofrio—is trying to figure out who killed Joanna Going.

Because even if the cops think Peter Sarsgaard is dirty, they don’t care about solving the case. If the show had any stones, it’d be a condemnation of the Los Angeles police department. Instead, it shrugs.

Then there’s some more stuff with Andre Royo getting some evidence under the table and how it leads to Gallner eventually getting out of prison. Sadly Eric Roberts is only in it for a scene.

The big finish is obnoxious—hopefully “Interrogation” won’t be the last thing director Ernest R. Dickerson ever does because it’s not a good capstone for anyone—and leads to the not big but ostensibly emotionally momentous showdown between Sarsgaard and Gallner in the “present.”

Gallner does the rounds on true crime podcasts, then drives around L.A. reminiscing. Some really bad reminiscing; Dickerson does a terrible job with it.

But as a reminder to who the real bad guy and the real reason for all this tragedy, “Interrogation” ends demonizing Joanna Going as a bad mom again in the postscript. She didn’t want to hold the baby her husband fathered in an affair. What a bitch. Obviously she deserved to die.

It’s kind of amazing how poorly the show treats her. But only kind of, as “Interrogation”’s always doing one thing or another amazingly poorly.

Interrogation (2020) s01e07 – Det. Carol Young & Det. Brian Chen vs Melanie Pruitt 2005

The year is 2005, so twenty years after the first episode—1983—and, therefore, Kyle Gallner playing closer to his actual age. It doesn’t really help with his performance. With his shaved head and serious prisoner eyeglasses and seventies porn ‘stache, every once in a while—when he’s not talking—you imagine they must’ve wanted someone else for the part who might be good. It’s a big swing of a performance for Gallner and a cringe-y fail of one.

Maybe Eddie Furlong.

This episode is about Gallner getting out of prison because Peter Sarsgaard was either a dirty cop or an incompetent one. Sarsgaard’s in old age makeup—really good old age makeup—and moping around because it’s 2005 and he doesn’t get to be as racist anymore. He can still be racist, obviously, like how the original D.A. Erich Anderson is low key racist and sexist to Black reporter April Grace in the first scene—setting up the cops and prosecutors as scumbags, which is something considering we then have to spend the entire episode with Sprague Grayden (who’s quite bad) and Tim Chiou (who’s scenery for Grayden) trying to figure out how to railroad Gallner back into prison. Their boss, current D.A. Joanna Adler (also not, you know, good), really hates Gallner’s high profile defense attorney, Eric Roberts (who’s phenomenal and makes the episode worth watching) and wants to get him good.

Gallner’s side of the story has Andre Royo in the background; presumably he was introduced in a previous episode—oh, yeah, this episode entirely hinges on information previously introduced so the whole “watch in any order you want” is utter nonsense and lazy storytelling from the show’s creators. This episode of “Interrogation” reveals it to be a bullshit White riff on “When They See Us,” only not a fiftieth as good. Also Ernest R. Dickerson’s direction is… bad. Like, real bad. Especially when it’s Gallner acclimating to freedom.

His storyline involves hooking up with prison bunny Alice Wetterlund, who’s also not good but far from Grayden. The only worse writing in the episode (courtesy Barbara Curry) than Wetterlund and Gallner’s “romance” subplot is when Grayden and Chiou propose their theory of the crime to Adler and we get to see how dumb everyone involved in the show must be when it comes to doing drugs. It’s not just it appears no one involved has ever done drugs… they haven’t even seen Trainspotting. It’s seriously the worst drugged out youth scene I’ve seen… since eighties television probably.

As for the “real” interrogation scene? It takes a few minutes and, since it involves Grayden, it’s pretty bad. Though it’s a great look for the cops, as they threaten to slut-shame a preschool teacher for being sexually active as a teen.

“Interrogation” is a show about how awful cops are and how cool it is they’re awful.

It’s also a show where somehow Dickerson manages to make the Santa Monica boardwalk look like it’s in Toronto.

I guess there’s some funny moments when it tries to be trendy, as Wetterlund tells Gallner to podcast so he can “own [his] story” and “tell [his] truth.”

Also for some reason still doesn’t get any good screen time murder victim Joanna Going is dressed like a clown.

I’m wondering if they decided you could watch the show in any order because otherwise it might be even worse. Though it’s hard to imagine the bad being much worse.

But Eric Roberts. Damn. You watch it and you feel the loss of him not having a great acting career in your bones.

The Specialist (1994, Luis Llosa)

Technically speaking, the best thing about The Specialist is probably John Barry’s score. Except he ripped off his James Bond scores and threw in some of his Body Heat music. Neither mood fits The Specialist, which isn’t glamorous enough to be Bond and isn’t sexy. I would have liked to say “isn’t sexy enough to be Body Heat” but The Specialist just plain isn’t sexy.

It’s supposed to be sexy, given how much emphasis director Llosa puts on stars Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone in various stages of undress (not to mention the two carry on some painful phone flirting), but it isn’t. While Llosa’s direction is lame and both Stallone and Stone are bad (Stone’s worse), Llosa simply doesn’t realize the picture right.

It might be sexy if it were about a broken-down ex-CIA assassin and a damaged woman who’s prostituting herself to avenge her dead parents (long story). But The Specialist treats Stallone and Stone as megastars, not people. The scenes where James Woods–in a great performance as the bad guy–berates her and Stone actually gets to show emotion, those scenes almost work. They suggest a film worthy of a good John Barry knock-off score.

Eric Roberts costars as her target and he’s nearly good. Alexandra Seros’s script is too laughable for anyone (save Woods, who mixes insanity and mocking contempt) to actually be good.

As for Rod Steiger’s Cuban gangster? He’d be funny if he weren’t such offensively bad.

The Specialist‘s awful.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Luis Llosa; screenplay by Alexandra Seros, suggested by novels by John Shirley; director of photography, Jeffrey L. Kimball; edited by Jack Hofstra; music by John Barry; production designer, Walter P. Martishius; produced by Jerry Weintraub; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Ray Quick), Sharon Stone (May Munro), James Woods (Ned Trent), Rod Steiger (Joe Leon) and Eric Roberts (Tomas Leon).


The Ambulance (1990, Larry Cohen)

How can Cohen do such amazing New York location shooting, but not be able to direct whatsoever? His composition is a disaster, but so is every dolly and pan. Luckily, his script is decent and his cast is phenomenal. So, even with the direction, The Ambulance is outstanding.

While Cohen’s dialogue is occasionally a tad tepid, his plotting is unbelievably tight. He introduces characters in the natural flow of the story, never worrying late additions may be hostile to the audience.

The film has a bunch of fantastic performances but the two most important are Eric Roberts (as the lead) and Megan Gallagher (as his reluctant sidekick). Roberts maintains energy and enthusiasm throughout—every moment he’s on screen, he’s captivating. Even with a terrible haircut.

Half Gallagher’s performance is unspoken, just her expressions changing. She has great chemistry with Roberts.

Red Buttons has a nice part—excellent chemistry between him and Roberts. It’s too bad there wasn’t a sequel, given he gets along with Gallagher well too.

James Earl Jones also has a good part. He has a lot of fun. The next supporting tier is strong too. Janine Turner, Eric Braeden, Richard Bright, all good. Stan Lee has a nice cameo for realism’s sake (Roberts works at Marvel Comics).

The only bad performance is Jill Gatsby’s and the only bad technical aspect (besides the direction) is Jay Chattaway’s awful score.

I wasn’t expecting anything from The Ambulance; turns out it’s quite good. Roberts and Gallagher make it occasionally amazing.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Larry Cohen; director of photography, Jacques Haitkin; edited by Claudia Finkle and Armond Lebowitz; music by Jay Chattaway; production designer, Lester Cohen; produced by Moctesuma Esparza and Robert Katz; released by Triumph Films.

Starring Eric Roberts (Josh Baker), James Earl Jones (Lt. Spencer), Megan Gallagher (Sandra Malloy), Red Buttons (Elias Zacharai), Janine Turner (Cheryl), Eric Braeden (The Doctor), Richard Bright (McClosky), James Dixon (Detective Ryan), Jill Gatsby (Jerilyn) and Stan Lee (Marvel Comics Editor).


Heaven’s Prisoners (1996, Phil Joanou)

I probably read Heaven’s Prisoners, the novel, about eighteen years ago; I don’t remember it. But I’m sure this adaptation is faithful to the events of the novel because this movie is a mess and there’s no good reason for it.

The novel can have space for a mystery and a character drama, but–at least under Joanou’s exceptionally bad direction–there’s no way the movie can have enough room. A decision needed to be made, whether they wanted to make a mystery, an alcoholism drama or a revenge thriller and no one seemed willing to make it. So instead of Heaven’s Prisoners, the film, succeeding, it fails.

It’s not a complete failure. Alec Baldwin is a problematic lead, but decent enough. Had he and nemesis Eric Roberts switched roles, the film would have been amazing, Joanou or not. Roberts is still great as a bad guy.

Also phenomenal–a word I rarely use–is Mary Stuart Masterson, who really gets the short end of the adaptation stick. In order to match the novel’s conclusion, the screenwriters fail her character. It really is one of the worst adaptations… the narrative structure, an abridging of the novel, is disastrous.

Bad acting from Kelly Lynch and laughably awful from Teri Hatcher make for painful scenes, but they don’t really do more damage than the direction.

Joanou somehow manages to suck the life out of New Orleans and Louisiana’s swamps, making them incredibly boring.

Inappropriate and bad music from George Fenton hurt it too.

It’s still worthwhile.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Joanou; screenplay by Harley Peyton and Scott Frank, based on the novel by James Lee Burke; director of photography, Harris Savides; edited by William Steinkamp; music by George Fenton; production designer, John Stoddart; produced by Leslie Greif, Andre Morgan and Albert S. Ruddy; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Alec Baldwin (Dave Robicheaux), Kelly Lynch (Annie Robicheaux), Mary Stuart Masterson (Robin Gaddis), Eric Roberts (Bubba Rocque), Teri Hatcher (Claudette Rocque), Vondie Curtis-Hall (Minos P. Dautrieve), Badja Djola (Batist), Samantha Lagpacan (Alafair), Joe Viterelli (Didi Giancano), Tuck Milligan (Jerry Falgout), Hawthorne James (Victor Romero), Don Stark (Eddie Keats), Carl A. McGee (Toot) and Paul Guilfoyle (Det. Magelli).


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