'The Badge' DVD Review (AKA 'Behind the Badge') ** 081305

The Work = **
Billy Bob Thornton stars as small town sheriff Darl Hardwick in this mess of a crime drama. There are scenes in 'The Badge' that work and the film has solid actors in many of its roles. Thornton, Patricia Arquette, Thomas Hayden Church, William Devane and Jena Malone all pop up in the film. The movie was completed in 2002, sat on the shelf and then went to straight to cable. Watching it now I can see why.

Frankly, outside of a few scenes the movie is just not compelling. There are a few funny moments, a few dramatic moments and the rest is just filler. There is a homicide in Hardwick’s town and right from the get go things are not quite right. Hardwick does not seem like that great a sheriff. He is what one might call “a good ‘ol boy.” When there is a car accident involving a tractor-trailer tuck carrying shoes he has just about everyone in town come by and pick up a “free” pair.

Another police officer wants Hardwick off the case and wants to bring in Federal authorities. He is talked out of that by a local judge. It seems the negative publicity is not something the small town wants. Better to have an inept sheriff quietly close the case and keep it out of the medias attention so the town can go ahead with its plans to open up a casino. There are plot twists and hidden pasts which I won’t reveal that come out with the case but as I have mentioned for the most part none of it is very compelling.

None of the actors do a bad job but they don’t do anything really amazing either. Only Arquette seems to be genuinely in to the material and gives a pretty dramatic performance. The direction and the story are both pretty flat for the most part and occasionally pretty bad. There were a few sequences of Hardwick driving that seemed like they were in the movie just to bad out the running time.

It is the shame 'The Badge' is not a better film because it almost seems like the ingredients for a good film are hidden in the film’s body. The actors are there and so are the locations. The small town mystery leading back to larger crimes has been done before but can be compelling. It is also too bad because here Thornton gets to play the hero (which I think suites him well although he rarely seems to pick those types of roles.)

DVD = ***

The Look
A fairly blah transfer but actually it is not all that bad. Considering this film went straight to cable and does not exactly have a stellar reputation fans should probably just be happy it is in widescreen. 'The Badge' is presented in anamorphic widescreen in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

The Sound
The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that sounded alright to me. Actually, again, considering this film’s rep’ it is pretty good. There are also subtitles in English and Spanish.

The Bonus
Clicking on the Lions Gate logo in the menu with play the hidden very bad trailer for 'The Badge' followed by the not bad trailer for the much better film 'Monster’s Ball'. The trailers are fullscreen and they are the special features that are on the DVD. That’s it. Now, I didn’t care for the film but at the very least how about some interviews or something. Oh well.

All Together = **
So I can’t recommend this one. Watching it I felt like it could have been shaped into something workable. Thornton himself would seem to be pretty unhappy with this flick as well. According to a much publicized article available HERE from the site 'Contact Music' he thought he was signing up to be in a comedy that the director turned into a thriller. I can’t speak one way or the other to the validity of his claims but I can say that watching this film I could see how it could have read on the page as a sort of quirky Coen brother’s type movie. It wouldn’t take too much to shape this film into that sort of film and it is a shame the writer / director Robby Henson didn’t do it.


'The Badge' Links:


'Contact Music' Article

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