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Customer Review

on March 19, 1999
Subtle and engrossing film study on human interaction in the face of internal and external conflict. Nick McKenna (Burt Reynolds) must come to grips with a life-long intolerance rooted in agism and perhaps even racism when he is forced to partner up with young witness Devon Butler (Norman D. Golden II). Butler, a young African-American man in the south, has issues of his own to deal with, issues that a white male member of the police force could not possibly understand. His is a somewhat underwritten role, but the Black-White dichotomy is directed beautifully by upstart director Henry Winkler (Fonzie of television's "Happy Days"). Make no mistake, however, this is Reynolds' movie, and the part seems to be written for him. The adaptation that McKenna undergoes over the course of this film is on one level charming but also moving. The turbulent and violent finale is somewhat derivative of Kurosawa, but like his work it will stick with you for days.
Burt Reynolds dares once again to defy the constricts of genre, this time putting the cop-buddy motif on it's ear. He proves once again that he is one of the great character actors of our time. Newcomer Norman D. Golden II is sensational as Devon Butler. His role is to both provoke and nurture change in Reynolds' character. This is a tall order for a screen rookie, but it works. The chemistry that evolves, and the unspoken trust that it in turn provides, is well-paced and believable. If nothing else, this movie is as real as the complex human condition residing within all of us.
My only reservation in not giving this film five stars is that it was not allowed to be shot in the grainy black and white that Winkler had envisioned. The studio chiefs at Universal certainly missed out on this. As it stands, however, "Cop and a Half" truly embodies the gritty tough elements we've come to expect from this type of film, but does so in unconventional ways that will challenge any student of film.
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