MRR Review: "McCanick"

Photo Credit: Well Go USA Entertainment

Rating: R
Length: 96 minutes
Release Date: March 21, 2014
Directed by: Josh C. Waller
Genre: Crime / Drama / Mystery

"McCanick" is a white-knuckle thriller that pulls in audiences and never lets them go. The film has all of the components that modern audiences demand, including a stellar script, plot and cast. Unlike many other action films, "McCanick" respects its audience's intelligence and delivers a realistic and compelling tale. Before the conclusion of the film, it unveils a final twist that turns the story upside down and catches audiences off guard.


David Morse plays the film's protagonist, Eugene "Mack" McCanick, a veteran narcotics detective. The plot starts unfolding when Mack learns that a harmless and unassuming young criminal named Simon Weeks has been released from prison. Against the wishes of his boss, Mack drags along his partner, Floyd Intrator, played by Mike Vogel, on the hunt for Weeks, played by Cory Monteith. During the pursuit of Weeks, the stress starts to take its toll on Mack. Merciless and driven, Mack becomes paranoid and frantic as he strives towards his goal, and as the story unfolds, his actions become more and more serious. As the tension rises towards the final act, the audience cannot help but doubt the purity of Mack's motives.

Behind-the-Scenes Talent

"McCanick" is director Josh C. Waller's fifth film, but only his second full-length, feature film. Despite the fact that Waller is a relative newcomer, his work is subtle, is nuanced and displays great intuition. "McCanick" is easily Waller's best work to date, and one that will surely improve his chances for success in the future. Daniel Noah wrote the script for "McCanick" and served as an executive producer along with Nicholas Donnermeyer and Donald Kugelman. The music featured in "McCanick," composed by Johann Johansson, is perfectly suited for the tense film.

The film's cinematography is superb and helps to set the tone for the entire film. Unfortunately, many modern crime movies feature warm, bright lighting, which makes the actors as attractive as possible but make the film look artificial. "McCanick" suffers no such fate. Cinematographer Martin Ahlgren produced a gritty, dark film that helps to elevate its tension. "McCanick" was shot in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a city that provides a wonderful backdrop for the film.

Onscreen Talent

Despite the excellent cinematography and direction, one of the movie's greatest strengths is its onscreen cast. Morse plays Mack superbly, managing to pull the audiences into his world of fear and angst. Mack plays the role of an aging detective perfectly, including subtle details that bring the character to life. Additionally, Monteith plays a very different character than his fans are accustomed to, but he pulls it off flawlessly. Though Weeks is not onscreen as much as Mack is, the character is crucial to the story. Without a good performance by Monteith, the film would not be successful. This was the last movie Monteith (best known for playing the role of Finn Hudson in the Fox television show "Glee") worked on before his sudden death from a drug overdose in a Vancouver hotel room in 2013.


At its core, "McCanick" is a familiar, archetypal story about the protagonist's journey to find himself. Even though Mack is tearing the world apart to find Weeks, it soon becomes apparent that he will only find redemption within. The true question, as with all such stories, is whether the hero will come to grips with the truth before it is too late.

The film's events take place within the course of one blistering hot day. The sweat glistening on the actors' faces is vivid and pulls the audience into the story. The combination of the time frame and the oppressive heat helps increase the suspense of the film. The language used by the characters, while offensive and strong at times, further helps to achieve complete authenticity.
The action sequences of the film are well conceived, convincing and exciting, and they keep the audience's adrenaline pumping throughout the hour-and-a-half-long film. Nevertheless, the film is more than just car chases and shootouts. "McCanick" provides an in-depth examination of the character's perspectives, emotions and motivations.

Much of the success of "McCanick" springs from Waller's creative vision. "McCanick" has all of the palpable drama that is necessary for a '70s-style cop flick, but it unfolds in a manner befitting modern audiences. The film's story line is accessible and interesting, but it does not force-feed the audience unnecessary details. Instead, it offers hints and suggestions and expects viewers to think the entire time. Thanks to the incredible talent of the cast and crew, "McCanick" succeeds in telling an old story to a modern audience.