Kodi Smit-McPhee

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) s01e05 – Det. Dave Russell vs Chris Keller 1983

Still the eighties, still the investigation. Though we do get to see David Strathairn and Peter Sarsgaard facing off after the murder. Sarsgaard is very whispery with Strathairn, who’s telling him to investigate Kyle Gallner’s friend, third-billed but rarely onscreen for very long Kodi Smit-McPhee.

This episode—eventually—has Sarsgaard interviewing Smit-McPhee in order to rule him out as a suspect. Unfortunately for Sarsgaard, Smit-McPhee seems really guilty. He lies about visiting Joanna Going—wow, she really gets the crap work in the flashbacks, time and again—and then there’s a goofy knife fight as Smit-McPhee self-aggrandizes in his interview with Sarsgaaard.

Is it an interrogation? Not really. But it seems like there’d be interview tapes or a transcript to dramatize. For a while it seems like Sarsgaard might actually be giving a better performance when his shady cop is actually doing his job—Frank Whaley’s back, playing the voice of reason and good cop here—but it doesn’t last long with Sarsgaard.

He’s bad again before he gets home and the show reveals why he doesn’t pursue valid second suspect Smit-McPhee. See, Smit-McPhee was in another state so good family man Sarsgaard had to abandon pregnant wife Ellen Humphreys to go interview him. In the other state—New Mexico, I think; doesn’t matter—there’s a female detective, which has some unspoken subtext, played by Roberta Colindrez. Colindrez lets Sarsgaard know pretty early on if he wants to play it dirty on this case, she’ll help him. He gets indignant about her suggestion he’s not going to do his job well.

So why does Sarsgaard let Smit-McPhee go after lying and go all in on Gallner—who spends the episode a juvenile in county jail, in the “Snitch Tank,” where Sarsgaard sends him to try to gin up a jail house witness—Sarsgaard goes all in on Gallner because Humphreys has a miscarriage and she’s really needy about it and so he’s not going to neglect her just to get the right killer.

Kind of a wow reveal, kind of an icky, passively misogynistic reveal—see, Sarsgaard would never have been a bad cop if it weren’t for his needy wife and her female problems—but, hey, on par for “Interrogation.”

Given the kid gloves the show usually takes with Sarsgaard’s dirty cop, it’s a bit of a surprise to see them go all in on the miscarriage explanation.

Interrogation (2020) s01e03 – Det. Dave Russell vs Kim Decker 1982

Nine months before the murder, we discover what a great kid thirty-four year-old sixteen year-old Kyle Gallner was before drugs. This episode doesn’t just—finally—give Joanna Going something to do as the eventual murder victim, it also introduces the history between Peter Sarsgaard and Gallner. See, Gallner goes to the cops to report his girlfriend (Morgan Taylor Campbell) had her brother rough him up or something, but it turns out Gallner’s getting high again.

So Sarsgaard does this walking tour through how much Gallner’s screwed up his life since he’s started using again and Sarsgaard doesn’t like what he sees. There’s also Gallner’s violence against Taylor Campbell.

Meanwhile Gallner’s got a whole “teen drug dealer” story arc with unmemorable Kodi Smith-McPhee—seriously, how does this guy go around with dyed blond hair and a big leather jacket and leave almost no impression… maybe because the show treats him like a constant mystery and Smith-McPhee plays it as anything but.

Anyway, the episode introduces Ebon Moss-Bachrach as the cool older friend who hooks Gallner up with a drug connection so Gallner can sell and make even more money. Things don’t work out exactly, however, and it all ends with Going finally cutting Gallner off. We’ve now seen him descend from promising young man getting his life back together—seriously though, the show has no comment on the parents’ interesting idea that the best thing to do with their drug addict teenage son is to financially support him living independently from them; I feel like it deserved some explanation, but apparently it’s a normal thing in 1983 L.A.

Moss-Bachrach is a little better than the norm, but only because of some base competency. He’s never good or anything. Just not as bad as some of the acting around him.

Interrogation (2020) s01e02 – I.A. Sgt. Ian Lynch vs Eric Fisher 2003

Now let’s rewind “Interrogation” to the second episode and see what would be getting introduced if you watched the show in episode order and not randomly, even though the timeline is fractured randomly in regular episode order too.

This episode takes place in 2003 and fully introduces Vincent D’Onofrio. His interview—not “Interrogation”—with Kyle Gallner is—again, presumably—based on the actual historical interview. Again, don’t want to harp on the show’s inability to deliver on its basic premise, but… it’s such an easy target, why not just bang on it every time you walk past.

You’d think, based on this episode, D’Onofrio’s going to be a big important character throughout. You would be wrong. Ditto Andre Royo. Both might be important in the historical sense regarding the real life case, but on the show… not so much.

This episode also introduces Elijah Nelson as Gallner’s new cell mate, who’s maybe schizophrenic but never diagnosed. He’s the one who comes across evidence because of his attention to detail. It’s very bold contrivance for the second episode, which also has Gallner in his shaved-head phase already. Watching the series “out of order,” you can’t fully appreciate how much the show creators thought they’d be able to rely on Gallner to shoulder the series’s weight.

There’s a big surprise from Nelson too, which only makes sense in the second episode and not when you see the result of it in later ones. The order thing is such bullshit.

Insert a Nelson Mutz “ha ha” gif here… but the joke’s on the viewer.

There’s a flashback to before the murder, when Gallner’s in rehab with Kodi Smit-McPhee (third-billed, which is ludicrous) and Morgan Taylor Campbell. I was waiting for a big Smit-McPhee part given how import the character seems to be in the story but… nope.

Taylor Campbell makes much more of an impressive just because it’s weird to see Gallner with a girlfriend.

Lots for Peter Sarsgaard in the modern (2003) era too, including a whole subplot with daughter Barbie Robertson starting to realize he’s a rather problematic cop.

Turns out Sarsgaard knew Gallner from before the murder—which I don’t think gets covered in the first episode (or anywhere else)—and appears to be a motivating factor for why Sarsgaard is so sure about Gallner.

The show’s real bad at Sarsgaard’s motivations. Probably because they didn’t want to be sued.

Frank Whaley shows up again, also in old age makeup. The makeup effects are easily the best thing about “Interrogation.”

Let Me In (2010, Matt Reeves)

Let Me In is ponderously stylized. Director (and screenwriter) Reeves approaches the film–about a twelve year-old boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who befriends the new girl in his apartment complex, also ostensibly twelve years old. Chloë Grace Moretz is the girl. She’s not just a girl, she’s a vampire. Reeves shoots it kind of like “She’s a Vampire, Charlie Brown,” with Smit-McPhee’s always present mom never actually seen (in focus) on screen. It’s similar with the other adults, except Moretz’s keeper (Richard Jenkins in a glorified cameo) and an investigating cop (Elias Koteas). The rest of the adults are mostly shown in long shot; they’re residents in the same apartment complex and Smit-McPhee is a bit of a peeper.

Yes, the distance does help make the audience understand Smit-McPhee’s isolation, but Reeves keeps a big stretch of narrative distance to Smit-McPhee too. Reeves has a distinct angle to Let Me In; look at these things, don’t look at these things. Within those constraints, the film’s an easy success. But those constraints are… really constrained. It’s like a fairytale… but not. It really is like a twisted Charlie Brown TV special. A beautifully made one, with an excellent performance from Moretz. Just no one else. School bully Dylan Minnette is really good. Smit-McPhee is fine. But he’s just got to be slightly creepy and very moody, which makes complete sense since his mom is a pass-out drunk. Not just a pass-out drunk, but also a Jesus freak.

Let Me In is based on a novel (and a Swedish film adaptation of that novel), so who knows how far Reeves wants to stray. But he sets it in 1983 New Mexico, with lots of pop culture references; so he’s definitely willing to stray. Whatever.

Jenkins, in that glorified cameo, might be fine. It’s very hard to say given he doesn’t have many onscreen lines; his most important ones are muffled through the wall, while Smit-McPhee is eavesdropping on his new neighbors. Similarly Koteas might be fine, but he never gets enough of a reaction to what’s going on around him. Person bursts into flames in front of Koteas? He’s great at acting in the crisis of the moment, but there’s no reaction from him.

So I guess the most impressive thing about the film is how Reeves basically has a bunch of caricatures but is able to make it not matter, not the way he’s telling this story.

Good, occasionally over-stylized photography from Greig Fraser. Decent cutting from Stan Salfas. Excellent score from Michael Giacchino. Reeves heavily relies on the photography, editing, and music to get Let Me In done. In almost every scene. Unless it’s with Moretz opposite Smit-McPhee. Those scenes Reeves handles differently, like he trusts the material more. Or he just trusts Moretz more, which is weird since Smit-McPhee’s the protagonist.

He’s just a very distant protagonist.

The movie’s exceptionally well-paced too. The first ninety minutes sail by. There’s a flash forward with Koteas opening the film (and kind of suggesting he might have a real part in the narrative as opposed to being a moveable piece in the plot), then backtracking to introduce Smit-McPhee and his situation. The present but out of focus mom (Cara Buono, who truly shouldn’t have been credited). Then in come Jenkins and Moretz. It all moves real smooth; it helps it’s not clear the opening flash forward isn’t just cutting to the end of the movie too (Koteas showing up in the flashback kind of gives that development away).

Reeves pretends Let Me In can make it just on being some kind of a tone poem and you can sort of pretend along with him (until the third act anyway).

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Matt Reeves; screenplay by Reeves, based on a novel and screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist; director of photography, Greig Fraser; edited by Stan Salfas; music by Michael Giacchino; production designer, Ford Wheeler; produced by Tobin Armbrust, Alexander Yves Brunner, Guy East, Donna Gigliotti, Carl Molinder, John Nordling, and Simon Oakes; released by Overture Films.

Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee (Owen), Chloë Grace Moretz (Abby), Elias Koteas (detective), Dylan Minnette (Kenny), and Richard Jenkins (guardian).


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