There's no shortage of police dramas to choose from, so one with as generic a title as Heywood Gould's One Good Cop (1991) is bound to get lost in the shuffle. It's the kind of "decent guy stuck in bad circumstances" movie that desperately wants to appeal to everyone and kind of does at times, even if both halves of its dramatic, bipolar plot never quite gel in a convincing manner. Luckily, the great cast and claustrophobic action sequences manage to wring some enjoyment out of its unrealistic story...so if that's enough for you, One Good Cop might be right up your back alley.
Writer/director Gould -- known primarily as the screenwriter for well-received films like Rolling Thunder, The Boys from Brazil, and Cocktail (OK, two out of three ain't bad) -- makes his directorial debut here and keeps One Good Cop moving at a steady clip during its chaotic and surprisingly brisk 114-minute lifespan. The story follows NYPD detective Artie Lewis (Michael Keaton, always in fine form) during a particularly turbulent time in his life and career: he and partner Stevie Diroma (Anthony LaPaglia) deal with tough customers on the streets, his wife Rita (Renee Russo) balances her own work with his long hours, and a hostage situation leaves one of Artie's fellow detectives dead with three orphaned daughters. Having no children of their own, Rita pushes hard to adopt the three young girls -- but with only a cramped apartment and one dangerous job to their name, it's not a transition that both are willing to make right away.
Perhaps the easiest observation from a first-time viewer is that One Good Cop is anything but predictable. Both halves of its story -- Artie's violent encounters as a cop, most of which involve his pursuit of local drug kingpin Beniamino Rios (Tony Plana), along with his and Rita's staggered attempts to build a family -- aren't always balanced well, as they're dropped in quick succession with minimal time for viewers to process everything. This creates a tense and uncertain atmosphere that can work to the film's advantage...but usually feels more distracting and manipulative than anything else. Luckily, its two leads turn in great performances: Keaton (between Batman and Batman Returns) is his usual charismatic self, while Russo salvages a lot from what's usually a thankless role in cop movies. These performances and others are part of what elevate One Good Cop from an otherwise generic police drama to a forgotten film worth watching, even if it spins its wheels at times and the ending is more formulaic than believable. Just where the hell is Internal Affairs?
One Good Cop was already released on Blu-ray from Mill Creek in 2012 as the better half of a double-feature with Sidney Lumet's 1992 thriller A Stranger Among Us. That didn't stop Kino Lorber from revisiting this title on Blu-ray six years later: not only does it stand on its own, but it's been given a modest A/V bump and even an exclusive new audio commentary with writer/director Heywood Gould. This disc is still aimed at established fans, but newcomers should at least consider giving One Good Cop a weekend spin for the performances alone -- even the child actors don't phone it in.
Presented here in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, One Good Cop was previously available on Blu-ray from Mill Creek and, while I don't own that disc for a direct comparison, it's likely that Kino's Blu-ray offers a modest overall improvement. This is a 1991 drama and certainly looks the part: earth tones are prominent with a good amount of image detail, although the overall appearance leans slightly towards "chunky" and "soft" like other films from the era. Black levels are relatively deep and consistent, while contrast seems fine with no obvious signs of blooming whites or black crush. There's a small amount of digital noise on display, but very little damage (a few stray vertical scratches or specks, but that's it) and no obvious compression artifacts, as this 104-minute film easily fits on a single-layered disc with no problems. Overall, I'm happy with how this Blu-ray looks and, while there's room for improvement, it's more than enough to satisfy fans.
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Likewise, the pair of lossless audio mixes (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround or 2.0 Stereo) serve up a capable audio presentation, alternating between quiet moments of dialogue and chaotic action sequences with very little trouble. Channel separation is obvious even without a great deal of surround activity or low frequency effects, creating a realistic sound stage that doesn't beat viewers over the head with showy theatrics. Dialogue is crisp, clear, and balanced well for smaller home theater setups. Optional English subtitles are included during the main feature, which is appreciated.
The static menu interface includes options for playback, chapter selection (eight total), subtitle setup, and bonus features, with quick loading time and few pre-menu distractions. As with most recent Kino catalog releases, this one-disc package arrives in a standard keepcase with poster-themed cover artwork (below left) and no inserts of any kind.
Surprisingly enough, Kino's Blu-ray includes a brand-new Audio Commentary with writer/director Heywood Gould, which is moderated by Kino producer Heather Buckley. It's an extremely solid track with plenty of good first-hand insight; topics of discussion include learning the ropes as a director, the casting process, favorite New York movie theaters, Bicycle Thieves, putting the crew together, cutting out storyboards, fights and stunt coordination, the writing process, stories from the set, working with child actors, cameos and supporting characters, a lifelong love of reading, and much more. Gould is very talkative and candid during this track while Buckley does most of the early driving; it's not always scene-specific, but we still learn a lot about the movie and his directing style as a whole. Also here is the film's Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes), cropped at 1.33:1 and looking pretty dated, as well as few trailers for other cop-themed Kino releases.
While the story is hardly groundbreaking or even all that well-balanced, One Good Cop remains an entertaining drama with a good cast, solid performances, and plenty of twists along the road. I just wish that this two-sided story fit together in a more natural way, as the juxtaposition of its main character's job and home life feels more than a little forced at times. Still, Michael Keaton (killing time between Batman and Batman Returns) carries most of the emotional weight, while Renee Russo does a lot with her underwritten "cop's wife" character. Kino's Blu-ray is a step up from Mill Creek's 2012 double-feature disc, offering what looks to be a modest A/V bump and an exclusive new audio commentary with writer/director Heywood Gould. Obviously Recommended to fans, but newcomers should probably rent this one first.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work and runs a website or two. In his free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.