Mod Squad [1999]

Julie Barnes (Claire Danes), Pete Cochrane (Giovanni Ribisi), and Lincoln Hayes (Omar Epps) have one thing in common: They're young adults on the wrong side of the law, arrested for crimes of robbery, grievous bodily harm, and arson. Taken in by mentor and father figure Captain Adam Greer (Dennis Farina), they are assigned to a special task force working undercover for the police--the logic being that these kids can get into the hip young establishments that the older, more cynical officers can no longer infiltrate. Ill-suited to each other and chastised by their peers, this rogue squad is forced to come together when they uncover a seedy world of police corruption. Not knowing who to turn to, the kids are left with their wits and street cunning (they're not allowed to carry guns) to overcome mounting odds against their survival. With Hollywood facing increased pressure in 1999 to curb its screen violence, this film arrived with perfect timing. The only problem is the film was aimed at an audience that never saw the early-1970s TV series that inspired it, and this dubious recycling resulted in paltry returns at the box office. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable action movie with some noteworthy performances--especially from Omar Epps, who shines with strength and vulnerability, like a young Laurence Fishburne. The energetic camera work and throbbing soundtrack also stand out, along with some retro styling and a plot that's refreshingly free of excessive violence or gratuitous special effects. --Jeremy Storey

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