Edison Force (2005) / Thriller-Drama
aka Edison

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, language, and brief drug use
Running Time: 97 min.

Cast: Justin Timberlake, LL Cool J, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Dylan McDermott, John Heard, Cary Elwes, Piper Perabo, Roselyn Sanchez
Director: David J. Burke
Screenplay: David J. Burke
Review published October 30, 2005

It's hard not to be attracted to this movie given its big name cast, especially when you see names like Freeman (Batman Begins, Million Dollar Baby) and Spacey (Beyond the Sea, K-Pax) above the title.  They aren't the stars of this film, though.  The real star is pop sensation Justin Timberlake, here in his first big acting gig, which will probably pull in a much younger demographic than a film like this should normally target.  He mildly impresses with a low key performance, but I have to give him at least some respect for trying to make a worthwhile movie right out of the box and not some puffy glamour piece like most pop stars that make the crossover usually do.  While all eyes are on Timberlake, LL Cool J (Mindhunters, S.W.A.T.) steals the movie with the best performance of his career.  What a shame that it's stuck inside such an unmoving, overreaching morality tale.

Edison is the name for the fictional city the events of this movie take place in (shot in Vancouver), where corruption permeates every facet of the criminal justice system, from the cops on the beat, to the judges, to the greedy politicians with their hands in the pockets of the major corporations that practically own the whole city.  It's become almost a fascist regime of its own, and the powers that be regularly send their wolf-hounds, the police division known as F.R.A.T. (First Response Assault and Tactial) out to do their misdeeds. 

LL Cool J plays Deed, a green F.R.A.T. recruit that doesn't quite have the stomach to kill a couple of drug dealers in cold blood and take their loot and stash.  His ultra-crooked partner, the vet named Lazerov (McDermott) , caps one, then pins the murder on the other dealer, who ends up copping to the rap out of sheer fear.  In court, Deed's conscience won't let him fabricate his story completely; a fact that doesn't go by unnoticed to ambitious fledgling reporter Joshua Pollack (Timberlake), who decides he wants to publish a story about the inconsistency in the testimony.  His editor, a highly respected journalist named Ashford (Freeman), won't print the piece as is, but encourages Pollack to follow leads, check out stories, and do the work necessary to blow the lid off of the corruption in Edison.  Pollack seizes the opportunity, but as people around the case start ending up dead, he questions the value of continuing if he is killed before his story ever sees the light of day.

Written and directed by longtime television scribe David Burke, Edison is a very ambitious story that probably started off with a kernel of inspiration, which probably got lost somewhere along the way.  It's clear to see why the city of Edison was concocted, as no city would ever allow itself to be shown as this corrupt, especially when it seems to all-encompassing.  For a movie attempting to tackle such complex themes, it's strange to see how simple and clean the corrupt operation really is, and even more surprising how one tiny mistake can topple the entire system without all that much effort.  It's an angle that screams L.A. Confidential (another Spacey vehicle), but Burke just doesn't have the vision to really nail down the authenticity of his story.

Also amazing is how overt the covert operation is.  It's a wonder that Pollack so readily thinks that the people of Edison will be shocked by what's going on, as F.R.A.T. barely makes any effort to conceal their pattern of illegal behavior, leaving behind obvious clues, doing a poor job of screening their candidates, and the head of the organization himself (Heard, White Chicks) can't seem to have anyone assassinated without doing do in front of dozens of witnesses. Burke's story chokes to death on the enormous size of its own implausibility pill, and despite the quality performances, the preposterousness never allows us to believe in any of it for even a second.

 Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo