Movie Review: Edison Force (2005)

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Published on: 2009.12.11

Apparently, “Edison Force” was so badly received by critics after its screening at the Toronto Film Festival that Sony Pictures canceled its theater-release, and it came out direct-to-video in 2006.

Whatever those critics saw must have been edited out of the DVD I rented. The story was compelling, it mirrored real-life events across our nation, and the film was filled with superb acting performances.

By coincidence, a cub reporter for a weekly newspaper stumbles on a group of corrupt policemen, men who are protected by their reputation for tough justice, a city government that supports them, and secrecy laws. The reporter (Justin Timberlake) gets hefty advice from the paper’s publisher (Morgan Freeman) as he goes after these cops (LL Cool J, Dylan McDermott, John Heard, etc.) Kevin Spacey plays the city investigator who helps out, and Cary Elwes is the District Attorney.

Some of the negative reviews for this movie focused on Timberlake’s inclusion in the all-star cast. Admittedly, Timberlake’s acting was the weak link in this film, but it was better acting than you’ll get from many big names in the field. Freeman turned in a brilliant performance, as usual, but with a slightly different personality than you’d expect from his character. LL Cool J’s character was moody, brooding, tortured by his conscience. He pulled it off well. And McDermott was fantastic as the drug- and power-addled member of this secretive branch of police.

For me, the plot didn’t center so much around the fact that a branch of law enforcement officers got power-hungry and thought they were above the law. That’s what Americans expect from some big-city police officers. What got me was the focus on the secrecy, and the police excuse “Revealing our methods would hurt our ability to enforce the law.” When the truth is that hiding their unethical methods is their only protection from prosecution.

In this, the movie worked to get out a message I’ve been preaching for several years: history shows us that government secrecy is almost never in the best interests of the people, and almost always hides corruption.

I did take points off for Timberlake’s presence, but he wasn’t terrible. He just felt weak in the presence of so many better actors. I also took off points for a couple of “goofs” by the filmmakers. There’s a silenced gunshot in one scene which appears to come from a gun without a silencer. In another scene, the dirty cops plant a revolver at a crime scene, though they’d used a different gun for the killing. Even a small-town police investigation would quickly reveal that the revolver was a plant.

But these shortcomings weren’t enough to ruin a film with a good story, excellent camera work, above-average acting, and a well-written script.

(Some have speculated that the movie was inspired by real-life events in Edison, N.J., but I’m not qualified to make such an assumption.)

IMDb: Edison Force
Wikipedia: Edison Force
Rating: R
(for strong violence and language, and brief drug use)
Length: 97 min. (1:37)
Director: David J. Burke
Genre: crime / drama / thriller
My Rating: 8 of 10
Morgan Freeman, LL Cool J, Kevin Spacey, Justin Timberlake, Dylan McDermott, John Heard, Cary Elwes, Roselyn Sanchez, Piper Perabo

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