July 11, 2006 (DVD)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Director: David Burke
Screenwriter: David Burke
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Justin Timberlake, LL Cool J, Dylan McDermott, John Heard, Cary Elwes, Piper Perabo
Genre: Drama, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R (for strong violence and language, and brief drug use)
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Plot Summary: How does morality becomes twisted in the collision between civic pride and covert greed? Should the law fully apply to those sweeping society's worst offenders off the street, or do most citizens prefer to turn a blind eye? And when noble goals cede absolute power, can anyone be surprised when it corrupts absolutely?
The growing metropolis of Edison seems to holds promise for all, but even young ambitious journalist Josh Pollack (Timberlake) must begin at the bottom. Though he'd rather launch his career as an investigative reporter at the Times, instead he's reduced to writing police blotter squibs at the Heights Herald, a community rag better known for its coupons. When Pollack perceives police fraud, however, his desire to expose it runs up against his boss, Moses Ashford (Freeman), a prize-winning photojournalist now content to please local advertisers. Ashford, who once documented the bloodiest melees three decades ago in Cambodia, no longer has the stomach for combat, neither can he stand a young reporter's laziness. Ashford fires Pollack, which does little to quell his intent to write the story.
Its subject is Edison's most elite police unit, FRAT (First Response Assault & Tactical), a SWAT brigade on steroids. Its members have every tool imaginable from M-11s and Glock .45s to Kevlar body armor – as well as their own exclusive strip club. Pollack's focus, however, is a brief moment of complicity in the courthouse between an alleged coke dealer and the arresting officer Raphael Deed (LL Cool J), whose attempt to stay on the high road does not sit well with his partner, Sgt. Francis Lazerov (McDermott). The quintessential rogue cop, Lazerov led the late-night raid that nabbed the dealer, but this was never supposed to be a routine bust. Truth is, FRAT only wanted the cash and the coke. After threats of turning them in to the Feds, one dealer is dead, his fearful lackey in the pen.
Pollack, taking up Ashford's challenge to do the dirty work, visits the frightened inmate to extract the truth, then works hard to corroborate his story in an effort worthy of Sisyphus. Lazerov is steeled as a wolf (indeed, he keeps a wolf's head as a symbol of strength), but Deed seems penetrable, a man struggling with his conscience, as well as his future. FRAT has always been a single-guy's club and Deed ponders proposing to his girlfriend, settling down, perhaps going into his father-in-law's plumbing trade. Afflicted with pneumatic headaches, he has a new one throbbing inside his skull: cover up the incident to protect FRAT and the city of Edison, or expose the unit's lawless excesses and destroy his career and everything else?
FRAT's militarist leader, Cap. Bernard Tilman (Heard), knows what he must do to keep Pollack's story from seeing the light of day, and his perspective is tacitly shared by District Attorney Jack Reigert (Elwes), a smooth-tongued professional with aspirations beyond the confines of Edison. As Pollack persuades Ashford to aid his investigation, especially after a beating by Lazerov that sends the reporter to the hospital and his girlfriend Willow (Perabo) into a coma, the uneasy alliance soon expands to include Levon Wallace (Spacey), a veteran Special Investigator who understands that clean streets and dirty cops aren't compatible.
As Pollack moves relentlessly toward writing his article, an inside prison job eliminates his only witness and the certainty crystallizes that he will be the next target. The city of Edison, its moniker suggestive of electrical power and the positive force of innovation, now pulsates for the young reporter with the power-hungry desires of those who control the grid, some who will do anything in the name of urban renewal, others merely naked ambition.