Deed (LL Cool J, HALLOWEEN H20) and Lazerov (Dylan McDermott, THE MESSENGERS) bust into an empty house one night to find two black drug-dealing youths squatting there.

Lazerov, the more experienced and brutal of the two cops, quickly establishes himself as a corrupt bastard not to be messed with. To his partner Deed's horror, he puts a bullet in one boy's brain and tells the other he will testify to committing the crime in court.

At the trial, the youth does indeed confess to the crime - claiming it was self-defence. As the hearing ends, he whispers "Thank you" to the more agreeable Deed. This is witnessed by up-and-coming Herald reporter Pollack (Justin Timberlake, ALPHA DOG) who immediately smells a rat.

Initially shunned - and sacked - by his weary boss (Morgan Freeman, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION), Pollack refuses to let go of what he believes to be a case so big it could possibly expose the whole of Edison's police force as being corrupt.

He suspects an LA CONFIDENTIAL-style swoop on crime where an specialised unit has taken it upon itself to rid their aspiring town of crime by killing the perpetrators and profiting from their ill-gotten gains. And he may not be far from the truth.

However, it's proving it. When the only witness - the detained youth who admits to Pollack during a prison visit that his confession was bogus - is bumped off, it becomes all the more imperative that Pollack gets the backing of his editor and internal affairs head Wallace (Kevin Spacey, SEVEN) if he ever wants the truth to out.

Engineered as a vehicle for Timberlake's acting aspirations, EDISON has clearly built up a solid cast to support him to lend credibility against what could have been a disastrous gamble. When you get a relatively small-scale film with a relatively "going-nowhere" plot like this, with a cast like this (also including the ever-dependable John Heard [IN THE LINE OF FIRE] and Cary Elwes [SAW]), you just know a few favours have been called in ... either that or frantic studio executives have been throwing cash around trying to add weight to Timberlake's non-reputation as a movie star.

However, as reliable as most of the cast are, it has to be said that the usually loathsome Timberlake comes across very well. It helps he's playing a geek, and even fluffs up things with his girlfriend, bringing a subtle, unsure persona to the screen. In the scenes he shares with Freeman, he's the most interesting of the two. Really.

Freeman and Spacey are capable of greatly moving performances, but are offered little here scriptwise - they merely sleepwalk through their roles. Ditto Elwes, who could have been fun as the slimy District Attorney were he in the film a bit more.

It's left to Timberlake, Cool J as the cop with the conscience and McDermott as the thug to carry the story. And they do, just.

As mentioned, Timberlake is surprisingly good. Cool J is a little less convincing with his constant frown, but is a naturally likeable character anyway. McDermott is hilarious, playing to the stereotype of "bad cop" ridiculously - his badness consists of facial hair, chain-smoking and swearing a lot. Where was the direction for this man?!

Speaking of direction, David J Burke (FRANK'S LAST DANCE) handles things competently. Okay, the acting from the supporting players is left to themselves (criminally so in McDermott's case), which shows Burke's lack of experience with veteran thesps. But the pacing and visuals of the film are very slick indeed. The thriller elements build up nicely (if a little confused at times), with only the rushed action-hour finale spoiling the tone.

Burke also wrote the script, and as far as conspiracy thrillers go it's pretty by-the-book. There're no great surprises as the "twists" unfold, and the love interest sub-plots afforded to Deed and Pollack are clichéd efforts at signalling who our empathy should lie with. But it's streamlined enough to deliver its plot in a compact 90-minute frame, and offers some decent dialogue between Freeman and Timberlake.

Optimum's disc presents the film uncut in it's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. Images are clear and vibrant, with sharp visuals and well-saturated colours. For a frequently dark film, it's good to note the transfer holds up with its blacks very well.

The 5.1 English audio is a good track, although the dialogue could've been higher up in the balance. English subtitles are optional in plain text, and Hard-of-Hearing varieties.

The only extras on the disc are a 12-minute Making Of featurette entitled "Absolut Power" (the usual mix of on-set footage and overly sincere talking-head interviews), and a 2-minute theatrical trailer that - if anything - doesn't do the film justice.

As is the norm for Optimum titles these days, there's also a handful of trailers for other films in their roster - 11:14, etc.

A decent enough film for a Saturday night in with the missus - not likely to hold up to multiple viewings, and hampered sorely by an ill-fitting shoot-'em-up finale. But you may be surprised by the twat's acting capability ...

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Optimum
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 15
Extras :
see main review