February 21, 2011

Queer Review: Flawless (1999)

Director: Joel Schumacker
Writer: Joel Shumacker
Cast: Robert De Niro, Phillip Seymour Hoffman

While not an awful movie by any means, Flawless is perhaps not an entirely accurate tittle for this project. To begin with; subtlety, thy name is not Schumacker. Also, both Robert De Niro and Phillip Seymour Hoffman have done much more impressive work elsewhere.

When decorated cop Walt Koontz (Robert De Niro) suffers a debilitating stroke that impairs his mobility and vocal capabilities, he finds himself in need of singing lessons with a limited number of options that he can turn to. Therefore, in spite of being a cold hearted bigot, he turns to his transgendered neighbor Rusty (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) for these therapeutic lessons. Meanwhile, the local drug kingpin is hunting down thousands of dollars in stolen cash that he believes is being hidden in the apartment building shared by Rusty and Walt.

As I said, this is not a bad movie, just a rather flawed one. The bigest problems relate to Walt Koontz, who starts out the movie as an over the top and completely stereotypical homophobic cop. At the beginning it is not much of a stretch to imagine that Koontz is just itching to restart the Stonewall riots just so he could put the queers in their place. Then, without any real explanation, Koontz is one of the film's most open minded characters, even going so far to defend one of Rusty's friends to a security guard.

The other imperfections include the performance of Robert De Niro who starred in this movie just before starting his descent into self parody with Meet the Parents. Phillip Seymour Hoffman also gives a rather disappointing performance. In fact, compared to his work in Capote, his performance is equally embarrassing to De Niro's.

The story itself also has problems, the missing drug money subplot - which results in the burst of violence that leads to Koontz's stroke and allows the movie a violent and bloody climax - is actually completely unnecessary. Take it away, and the story would have worked a lot better as well as freeing up screen time that could have been devoted to additional scenes between Rusty and Koontz.

Recommending this movie to anyone is rather hard. While not completely awful, the production as a whole stews in mediocrity, making it difficult to imagine anyone who would actually enjoy watching it.

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