Florida City

Reviewed By The Ultimate Dancing Machine
Posted 04/20/03 17:10:24

"Decent mystery--but what's missing?"
3 stars (Average)

Dealing with a murder mystery in a small Florida town back in 1941, FLORIDA CITY is a well made but oddly unengaging period piece. I mean "oddly" in the sense that it's not obvious where and why it goes wrong. It just seems flat, somehow.

Reportedly based on a true story, the film places small-town Chief of Police John Haleran (Zen Gesner) at the head of a murder investigation; the victim is a young Japanese woman found in the middle of a field. An inexperienced cop, Haleran's not used to this sort of action; he's basically an average joe with an above-average drinking problem, and it looks like he's in over his head. But he persists in his investigation, and as he does, what looks like a simple homicide turns into something far, far bigger....

FLORIDA CITY is reasonably well acted, with Gesner turning in a serviceable performance as our down-to-earth hero; former pro wrestler George Steele also pops up for a small but memorable role as a grizzled, shotgun-toting bar owner. But the film suffers from a sense of overfamiliarity. Perhaps it's the lifeless dialogue. Perhaps it's the stock situations, in which, for instance, we find Haleran pursued by somebody in a black car, and followed around by creepy-looking men in spectacles. Perhaps it's the uninteresting manner in which the mystery unravels--mostly a matter of tracing phone numbers all over town.

Watching FLORIDA CITY, I found myself recalling the recent Kevin Spacey vehicle THE LIFE OF DAVID GALE (I think it was the mysterious-people-following-Haleran business that did it). DAVID GALE was often absurd, but it held your interest--maybe in part because of its absurdity. FLORIDA CITY doesn't commit such blatant mistakes, but it's also less absorbing; it seems too calculated, too restrained; it suffers from the reverential stiffness that tends to afflict period pieces.

FLORIDA CITY is an all-around solid effort, but it doesn't sit well in the memory.

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