• FILM

  • SEARCH FOR

Homicide

Directed by David Mamet. Starring Joe Mantegna, William H. Macy, Natalija Nogulich, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Pidgeon. (1991)

REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., Nov. 1, 1991

Homicide may not be Mamet's most accessible film, but it combines those elements of the playwright/director's work -- theatricality, stylization, rough poeticism -- that might be most off-putting to the typical movie audience with enough tension and mystery to keep them in their seats. Once again, Mantegna is Mamet's medium, channeling the playwright in this film about a man lost in an internal struggle between his identity as a Jew, his identity as a cop, and his identity as a man. In the brutal world of cops, racial slurs and epithets are hurled without a thought to their effect. On the contrary, “real men” are expected to laugh it off. Yet Mantegna begins to think of himself as a Jew, an identity he has ignored or suppressed, when he's forced to abandon his partner, Macy, and the high-profile drug case he was working on in order to investigate the murder of an old Jewish woman. Her family's got juice and they want a Jew to handle the case. Resentful at first, Mantegna gets drawn into the case, “my Jews,” as he refers to it. And the next thing he's gone through the looking glass, into a world of terrorism, intrigue and espionage. Mamet paints with a broad brush and Mantegna does nothing half way. As a cop compensating for what he believes is a perception of the Jew as timid, bookish and effete, he's always the first one in the door, gun drawn. When he finds himself in a community of Jews, his brittle protective exterior shatters. In the company of cops, Mantegna and his compatriots trade rough curses, litanies of abuse intermingled with declarations of love and loyalty in the cadences of the street. But no matter how many people Mantegna has around him, the landscape we're navigating with him is a private hell of his own creation. Perhaps it could be argued that Mamet's plays are notable for their realism, certainly Mamet's films are distinguished by their theatricality. In this case it serves to highlight Mantegna's internal wars as they're expressed externally. It doesn't always work. The film falters in the last few minutes and the promised revelations don't come until later -- in the street, on the way to the car. It's a little too late.

READ MORE
More Homicide
Barrera Death a Great Loss
Barrera Death a Great Loss
A New Year's Eve murder stuns friends of Esme Barrera

Jordan Smith, Jan. 6, 2012

More David Mamet
David Mamet: Textual Perversity From Chicago
David Mamet: Textual Perversity From Chicago
For his first residency at UT, Mamet discusses his work and career in a public conversation

Robert Faires, Feb. 1, 2008

More David Mamet Films
Redbelt
Although David Mamet's new film, which is set in the mixed-martial arts fight world, contains all the storyteller's familiar motifs, Redbelt may also represent his most commercial venture yet.

Marjorie Baumgarten, May 9, 2008

Spartan
This crackling good David Mamet movie starring Val Kilmer is one if the writer-director's best efforts.

Marjorie Baumgarten, March 12, 2004

More by Kathleen Maher
Singles
Love in the Nineties: no drugs and the sex is scary. Actually, Cameron Crowe documents the habits of a generation that adapted.

Sept. 25, 1992

Incident at Oglala
British filmmaker Apted makes a carefully reasoned, yet passionate statement about the legal system that has ensnared American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier.

July 10, 1992

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Homicide, David Mamet, Joe Mantegna, William H. Macy, Natalija Nogulich, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Pidgeon

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
This content has not been formatted for this window size.
Please increase the size of your browser window, or revisit this page on a mobile device.
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)