Artisan Home Entertainment presents
The Badge (2002)
Scarlett: If I help you, will you go all the way with this?
Darl: Yeah.- Patricia Arquette, Billy Bob Thorton
Stars: Billy Bob Thorton, Patricia Arquette, William Devane
Other Stars: Sela Ward, Jena Malone, Julie Hagerty, Deana Carter, Ray McKinnon. Tom Bower, Thomas Hayden Church
Director: Robby Henson
MPAA Rating: R for (nudity, strong language, sexual situations, violence)
Run Time: 1h:43m:25s
Release Date: 2003-01-14
DVD ReviewEver since he made me laugh as John Ritter's best friend in the woefully underappreciated television series Hearts Afire, Billy Bob Thorton has been one of my favorite actors. Saddle him with a small part and he'll steal your movie (The Apostle, Primary Colors). Give him substance and he'll conjure brilliance (A Simple Plan, Sling Blade). Buy his scripts and gems will surface (One False Move, The Gift).
In other words, I'd pay to see him recite the user manual for a power drill.
Even in films that don't quite measure up to his standards, Thorton never gives less than a hundred percent. How he managed to deliver the line, "It's what we call a global killer" with a straight face in Armageddon, I'll never know. To paraphrase a classic Paul McCartney lyric, Billy Bob can take a so-so movie and make it better.
Such is the case with The Badge, a straight-to-cable effort originally intended as a follow up to Monster's Ball, until it was decided that Thorton's character bore too many similarities to the one he portrayed in that film. But I don't buy it. To me, I think the end result was so non-commercial and regionally seasoned that relegating it to small screen status would be the only means of reaching an audience.
Set in a small, Louisiana "how's your mama and them" town, Darl Hardwick (Thorton) is a sheriff in the midst of an investigation involving a murdered transsexual that awkwardly coincides with re-election time. Making his job more difficult is ex-wife Carla (Sela Ward), the parish's district attorney, who's none too enamored of his handling of the case. Throw in a rebellious teenage daughter (Jena Malone), the grieving widow of the murder victim (Patricia Arquette) and a band of political enemies headed by a local judge (William Devane), it's a wonder Darl doesn't go mental and swap his pistol for a sling blade.
Tensions boil to the surface at a local gathering in honor of the governor (who's not helping our hero's mental state by being sweet on his former squeeze), when it's revealed by the mayor that Darl will not be supported for re-election, and fisticuffs ensue. Already shy of falling down drunk, Darl makes a pivotal mistake by escorting an underage female companion to and from the proceedings. One can almost see the flurry of invisible light bulbs above the crooked politicos' noggins.
Hours later, Darl is behind bars at his own jail, falsely charged with statutory rape. Upon making bail, he forms an alliance with the murder victim's wife to uncover more clues. As the trail leads to New Orleans, hidden connections are made to the mayor, governor and judge that may prove fatal to the unlikely crime-fighting duo.
Dripping with intrigue and good performances (particularly Arquette's alternately fragile and steely Scarlett and Devane's patented smarminess as the judge), The Badge holds up beautifully in its initial set-up. The regional background oozes authenticity via Irek Hartowicz's beautiful cinematography and writer/director Robby Henson nails the atmosphere of life in a sleepy Southern town.
Regretfully, a plodding mid-point and avoidable clichés threatened to derail the film from watchability. Potentially interesting subplots involving Darl's family are thrown to the wind (Ward and Malone, two of the finest actresses working, are all but wasted) and too many red herrings in regard to the murder mystery wind up being confusing instead of captivating. Yet Thorton's unwavering professionalism, likability and commitment to the story keeps one from throwing in the towel.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: A warm and very consistent transfer with rich colors and deep blacks effectively replicating the film's well photographed exteriors. There are a couple of occasions when fleshtones are not altogether accurate here and there, but none are distracting.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Workman-like but adept mix with easily understood, extremely clear dialogue. Surrounds are fairly subdued and used sparingly in a front heavy mix, except during musical passages and action sequencies aided by very effective low frequency effects.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Monster's Ball
Extras Review: Dry as a creek during drought season. There is an easter egg (accessible via a click of the majestic Lions Gate logo) that plays trailers for The Badge and Monster’s Ball back-to-back, th-th-that's all, folks.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsSpotty and disjointed at times, the superlative performance by Thorton backed by a great cast makes The Badge worth at least a rental.
Jeff Rosado 2003-03-05