Picks and Pans Review: Homicide

updated 10/21/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/21/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Joe Mantegna, William H. Macy

Another way of getting to the Hollywood director's chair is to have occupied such a chair for the stage. David Mamet, whose string of Broadway triumphs as a playwright include American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross, now makes his third outing as a screenwriter-director (House of Games, Things Change). Homicide opens strongly in the station house with Mantegna and Macy as police detectives, Jewish and Irish, respectively, trying to cope with each nightmare day. "Do you want to know how to solve the problem of evil?" asks a man just arrested for killing his family. "No, man," Mantegna tiredly replies, " 'cause then I'd be out of a job."

The trouble for Mantegna—and the movie—comes when he is forced to choose between his badge and Zion. That just might work onstage, where the audience is expected to pause and reflect, even on implausible questions. Onscreen, where disbelief isn't easily suspended, his actions are frankly incredible. It is a commentary on the differences between stage and screen that Foster—a novice with solid grounding—works more fluently with film than the stagecrafty Mamet. (R)

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