With an abundance of fast-paced police dramas on television, it might seem logical to try to translate these stories to film. Yet “McCanick,” the latest action flick from director Josh Waller, rests on undefined presumptions and ultimately leaves the audience wanting more, much like the serialized shows on network television.
“McCanick’s” greatest problem lies in its sloppy delivery. The story, taking place over the course of one day, follows seasoned detective Eugene McCanick, played by David Morse. The film is reminiscent of a typical police story, with the usual activities one might assign to a hardened character like McCanick. But, his trials and tribulations are those that the audience could easily watch in reruns on a more evolved and less confusing television series.
Through a number of flashbacks that exist for plot and character development, it is revealed that McCanick harbors a deep secret, one that involves misguided teenager Simon Weeks, played by the late Cory Monteith, and Simon’s string of past offenses.
McCanick’s growth does not register on screen, making the narrative hard to follow and less deserving of the audience’s attention. The director tries too hard to make the film a gritty and captivating character study, but the vague and underdeveloped nature hinders the success of this goal.
Despite “McCanick’s” muddled storyline, the individual performances are what make this film tolerable. Morse’s uncompromising and honest character, if transplanted to a different environment, would have the potential to carry an entire film. His performance is unfortunately deluded because of his slovenly representation on screen. Supporting roles from Mike Vogel and Ciarán Hinds seem rich and interesting, but are lessened because of Waller’s choice of narration.
Though merely a supporting character in the film, Monteith’s depiction of a bewildered and distressed criminal is the standout performance of “McCanick.” Weeks does not appear to be a character deserving of sympathy or empathy. In spite of this, Monteith brings a vulnerability that allows the audience to connect with his plight. More importantly, his role is the most developed.
Monteith is remembered primarily for his popular role as Finn Hudson on “Glee,” but his character in the film is a far cry from that part. Considering his struggles with substance abuse in real life, Monteith evidently explored the harrowing characteristics of an individual like Weeks and gave the character commendable conviction. Perhaps he even looked to his own experiences, allowing him to express feelings not easily accessible to most actors. Monteith ultimately gives an admirable performance that shows his diverse acting ability.
Monteith brings a much-needed sense of purpose to the film, making his final film role that much more fulfilling and honorable. However, even with a formidable and talented cast, “McCanick’s” lack of plot and character development cause the film to fall short.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, March 26 print edition. Nora Blake is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]