One puzzler doesn’t ruin Shield’s season
By Phoebe Flowers
— Rob Lowman Film Writer Los Angeles Daily News
Posted February 27 2005
There comes a segment near the end of the third season of The Shield that is
immediately recognizable as the moment the show went too far. That such a
thing is even possible in a cop drama that has in its past featured, for
example, criminal suspects having their faces seared on stove burners may
seem unlikely. But the final scene of the episode titled “Strays” takes a
character to a place both inexcusable and, more important, unbelievable.
If you look to the commentary track, featuring creator Shawn Ryan, producer
Glen Mazzara and actors Catherine Dent (Officer Danny Sofer) and Jay Karnes
(Detective Dutch Wagenbach), for explanation of this perplexing plot
development, you won’t find one. On the contrary, it features Ryan bragging
that “Strays” was the favorite episode of FX, the apparently freewheeling
network that has aired The Shield since 2002. Guest director David Mamet
(Spartan, State and Main) may have had something to do with their blind
And yet, “Strays” is at odds with a season that is otherwise as smart, wild
and enthralling as those that have preceded it. Ever since Detective Vic
Mackey (Emmy winner Michael Chiklis) stormed into an interrogation room in
the series premiere to assure a suspect that he was “a different kind of
cop,” The Shield has constituted the most entertaining law-enforcement show
on television. Look at The Wire, HBO’s intricate police procedural, as the
equivalent of reading an edifying story about sequoia trees in The New
Yorker. The Shield, on the other hand, is Britney’s unauthorized honeymoon
diary in Us Weekly. 24 wishes it were this audacious or addictive.
Chiklis, who also pinch-hits as a producer and director, is the star of the
show as Mackey, who with his lumpy bald head and stocky physique is easily
the least likely sex symbol since Tony Soprano. The season picks up with
Mackey and his colleagues on the “Strike Team,” a cowboyish lot with
gleefully unorthodox crime-fighting methods, having stolen a huge amount of
cash from Armenian gangsters. The next 14 episodes find them discovering
just how bad an idea that heist was.
The journey is somewhat better than the destination, however. “Breaking
Episode 315,” an hour-plus featurette focusing on the making of the season
finale, is a perhaps excessively detailed behind-the-scenes portrait. And it
doesn’t do anything to distract from the fact that the episode feels less
like catharsis than it does a setup for season four. But luckily, we only
have a few weeks until it premieres on FX.
The Shield — The Complete Third Season, not rated, 700 minutes, $59.98.
Phoebe Flowers can be reached at [email protected].
Funny but not essential
Director Barry Sonnenfeld left out what he considers the funniest scene in
Get Shorty, the clever 1995 adaptation of novelist Elmore Leonard’s wry take
on Hollywood. The reason? “It seems to me that if you’re trying to make a
movie to entertain people, you want to entertain people. As horrible as
recruited audiences are, I’m one of the directors that needs them. I need to
see which jokes are working and which aren’t.”
In Get Shorty (the sequel Be Cool is out next week without Sonnenfeld), the
director edited out a scene with Ben Stiller, John Travolta and Gene
Hackman. Stiller is a recent film-school grad shooting a low-budget horror
flick for Hackman’s low-rent producer Harry Zimm and Travolta’s hood Chili
Palmer, who is trying to muscle into Tinseltown.
“The scene was funny, but it didn’t serve the overall movie,” says
Sonnenfeld. “So get rid of it. Don’t bore your audience.” Not to worry, the
scene is included on the just-released special edition of the film.
As for how much reality Get Shorty has in relation to the cutthroat business
of making a Hollywood movie, Sonnenfeld’s answer is simple: “Get Shorty was
letting the film business off easily.”
Get Shorty (Special Edition), rated R, 105 minutes, $29.95.