Dickie Gere (playing Erroll Babbage), a veteran at the department of public safety, is on his way out due to his unorthodox methods (he likes to slap pedophiles and rapists around – nothing wrong with that). While he’s training his impending successor (Danes), a deviant from his “flock” kidnaps some poor girl and it’s up to Dickie, his gray hair and his intense stare to find out who the culprit is and where the victim is hidden before its too late.
Your fear is their desire
As I was walking through my DVD store looking for FRONTIERS to review this week (they didn’t have it…bugh), I fell upon THE FLOCK, a flick I had never heard about before. The selling point for me was that it starred Richard Gere in a dramatic role. An Officer and Gentleman, Breathless, Primal Fear, American Gigolo, Internal Affairs… Gere was always a favorite of mine, until he started doing all them romantic films set in New York that is. So seeing his grey haired mug on that DVD box made me feel nostalgic, so I cold rented it and hoped for the best.
THE FLOCK was famed Hong Kong director Andrew Lau’s (of the Infernal Affairs franchise) US cinematic debut (well kind of –see the bullseye section for details) and it’s a shame that it didn’t hit the big screen here in North America, because although not a “happy go lucky” watch, I really dug it. THE FLOCK tackled a subject matter that I am personally very avid about: “sexual offenders”. And when I say avid I mean in the sense that “I don’t give a fuck if rapists or pedophiles have paid their debts to society – put me in a room with them with an iron baseball bat and let me bring in some TRUE justice. Yeah, that kind of avid. I have a to the core disdain for these scumbags, hence I totally related to the Richard Gere character here; a man who has to keep tabs on them, loathes them with a passion but at the same time is not allowed to do anything above that.
The flick itself was almost like three films rolled into one and luckily for me I enjoyed all three vibes. First it was an engaging “old dog” shows new pooch the ropes with Gere and Danes playing off each other beautifully. Then hints of Death Wish surfaced with Gere going beyond paperwork when it came to his “flock”. I found them bits viscareal and cathartic. And finally, the affair launched into full on, suspense laced SEVEN-ish mode right down to having its finale go down in a desert environment that screamed “what’s in the box!” Through it all though, my main anchor was without a doubt Erroll Babbage and how Gere played him. I actually connected with and agreed with the lad. I felt his frustration and could only imagine how it would affect me to be surrounded by human trash on a daily basis and not being allowed to go to town on them as one should.
Another factor that upped my enjoyment factor was the whodunit that eventually kicked in. Red herrings were slyly tossed my way and yup they had me guessing like a drunkard playing a sloppy game of CLUE. Same went for the “beat the clock” device, it had me on the edge of my sofa with cheese covered nachos tumbling off my lap and onto my carpet (yes my cat was well fed that night). And you should’ve seen the smile on my face when out of the blue the picture embraced horror for its last block with severed limbs, a credible hence MUCHO scary psychopath and enough disturbing imagery to fill up at least 4 of my Nightmares on Arrow Street. Tag to that an overall aura of hopelessness which went hand in hand with the bleak subject matter, washed out cinematography that fit the bill and assured directing by Lau and you get a heavy hitter that came through.
On the dummy side of the bullet; the flick was somewhat schizophrenic in terms of what it wanted to be (lots of the film was re-shot – maybe that had something to do with it - again see bullseye section), hence it felt semi disjointed in places. At the same time though it was part of its charm. Familiarity was in the house as well with THE X FILES, SEVEN and DEATH WISH coming to mind maybe too often. Not much harm done but it needed to be spat. And who the f*ck thought it would a good idea to cast Avril Lavigne in a small role???? Even within minute screen time (why is she top billed again) she took me out of the flick with her non-acting. My more severe qualms with it were: 1- The Claire Danes character somewhat lacked in substance when compared to Gere. I mean who is she? Why is she taking that job? What is driving her as to this case other than Dickie Gere being one heck of a cool mofo? Don’t know. Finally, somebody should’ve lowered the editor’s daily yeyo intake, cause he was a little too “quick cut” happy for my liking, often enough to the film’s detriment.
As the end credits rolled, THE FLOCK wound up being a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect much if anything from it other than Gere owning the scenery and low and behold I got that and a somber, gripping, ballsy and overall well made flick. In the mood for a bitter slice of life with Gere trying to teach it a lesson old school? Join this FLOCK and tear it apart from the inside, limb by limb.
The flick was playing the dry card for like 40 minutes but next thing you know, a slit throat, a decayed body, severed limbs, a ripped off face and nasty cuts surfaced. YEEHAW!
This was Richard Gere’s (Babbage) show! He was at his most intense, focused and compelling. You can’t go wrong with “Angry Gere” man, you just can’t! God I love that dude! Claire Danes (Lowry) did what she had to do with what she was given; too bad her character was thinly written. NOTE: I dig the way Danes cries. When she tears up it comes from her gut, always loved that about her. I can’t give “whom” away, but the person that played the main psychopath f*cking BLEW ME AWAY in his/her rendition. Incredibly frightening performance wow! I want to see more of him/her! Why Avril Lavigne (Beatrice Bell) was cast is still beyond me. Always great to see Ray Wise (Billy) do his thing! LELAND!
We get some minor TNA during a foray in some “Sin House”, nothing to pop wood and rip through your Jeans over.
Lau gave the flick just enough style to please the eye (overhead shots– powerful close ups) but not enough to detract you from the storyline. He also obviously had a firm grasp on his actors – too bad he couldn’t be in the editing room to pipe that Junior down!
Guy Farley’s score hit the right notes and backed up the drab imagery adequately without ever being overbearing.
Director Lau was fired late in the shoot and the producers completed the first cut. That was the cut that was released foreign. The producers then had a second cut done with commissioned re-shoots done by Neils Mueller (The Assassination Of Richard Nixon). That's the cut released in the USA. The original cut ran 10 minutes longer than the US cut and yes if somebody can hook me up with it, please do so, I’d love to see it!
THE OFFICIAL THE FLOCK SITE HERE