NOSTALGIC FOR HOMICIDE? Not the crime, but the recently cancelled NBC show, whose centerpiece was always the intense grilling of suspects in "the box"—a cramped little space that somehow encompassed a vast area of criminality and deception. The same can be said of The Interview, which is essentially one long, feature-length interrogation scene. This intense, narrow scope is both a virtue and a limitation, as we're only allowed occasional breaks in the squad house and a few flashbacks to prior events.
The wrong man? Detained suspect Hugo Weaving.
directed by Craig Monahan
with Hugo Weaving, Tony Martin, and Aaron Jeffery
runs February 18-24 at Varsity
Knowing nothing of the past, however, we're immediately sympathetic to Eddie, a poor rooming house resident who's brutally rousted by the police and dragged down to the station. Played by Hugo Weaving (Proof, The Matrix), he's a timorous soul, seedy and jobless, who denies any knowledge about a stolen car. Tough young Prior (Aaron Jeffery) is the bad cop during Eddie's questioning, while good cop Steele (Tony Martin) provides a calming influence—and perhaps the reward of a meal or smoke.
Yet The Interview gradually unsettles our expectations. Distorted sounds, odd angles, and warped short-lens perspectives underscore Eddie's Kafkaesque predicament, but the constant video surveillance we glimpse doesn't correspond to the cops' account of what's on the record and off. What gives?
"No one's trying to manipulate you," Steele says, lying to Eddie, but outside the room we learn how the detective is similarly under pressure and scrutiny. His boss is riding him. There's a lot at stake. And an unctuous journalist is lurking around the squad house. "There are too many people around here with their own agendas," the beleaguered Steele complains. By law, he can't hold Eddie indefinitely without charge, but he also doesn't want to show his hand to the suspect—who inevitably begins to resent and rhetorically attack his inquisitors.
In its claustrophobic focus, The Interview is like a filmed play—which is to say, like a very well-made work for television. Director and co-writer Craig Monahan does what he can to provide visual interest to the proceedings, but ominous blue shadows and slow, circling dolly shots can only go so far. Mainly it's an actors' showcase where the performers are certainly adroit in their roles—but those roles have been made too familiar by our long experience with TV cop shows. The multilayered plot itself is both a smart expansion and deconstruction of the generic interrogation scene. Still, despite the film's acclaim at home in Australia, The Interview will probably find a more limited audience here among Homicide and Law & Order fans.