Beyond the Law (1968)

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*. I don’t think Mailer’s second effort is a good movie, but it is an attempt to make a real movie, as opposed to the improv-theatre, anti-movie Wild 90. And while it’s let down by many of the same failings as that earlier film (the sound is somewhat better but still awful, and the acting is embarrassing), it actually has a pretty good storyline and makes effective use of editing within the two main sequences.
*. Yes, the sound is better. But this has to be one of the worst movies ever for visible mic booms. In fact, in one shot you see not only the boom and the mic but the person holding the recording equipment. Please.
*. Does George Plimpton look uncomfortable or what?

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*. For some reason Mailer seems to have thought that trying on different voices and accents was acting. He spends the early part of this movie sounding (or trying to sound) like a Southern sheriff, then ends up putting on a ridiculous Irish accent for the final scenes.
*. While I do like the editing, and the juggling among different parallel scenes at the precinct and in the bars, I found the silly wipe effects distracting and unsuited to the documentary-style filming.
*. Despite the documentary approach, there’s nothing realistic about the proceedings. The sets don’t look like a precinct, and I don’t understand what the point of the line-up at the beginning is except to introduce us to the different characters we will be seeing interrogated (that is to say, it only serves a dramatic and not a documentary function).
*. That said, the premise of using a night at the precinct as a way of  rounding up a bunch of unusual characters and then tearing into them is a good one, and leads to some entertaining roles and vignettes. With a bit of competence, this could have been a good movie. As it is, it’s a curious diversion.

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