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BROWN'S REQUIEM

USA, 1998 (MIFF 1999, International Panorama)

Director: Jason Freeland

James Ellroy spent the early 80s in an alcoholic haze, stealing womens' underwear from clotheslines when he wasn't on a bender or absorbing a century of crime fiction. From casual work as a drunken golf caddy to literary celebrity. Ellroy has come a long way in 15 or so years. The rights to practically his entire output have been bought and are being scripted for the screen. After LA Confidential, he became hot property, a writer with a style described as 'a Tinseltown Dostoyevsky'.

First timer Jason Freeland has filmed one of Ellroy's earliest works bringing the count to three after Blood on the Moon, filmed as the nasty and not half bad James Woods vehicle, Cop. The archtypically noir Brown's Requiem draws the viewer into Ihe seedy world of a disgraced cop turned PI, Fritz Brown. Brown makes most of his living as a repo man until lured by the scent of cash into a case that supposedly involves nothing more than him keeping a watchful eye on the teenage daughter of the obnoxious Freddy 'Fat Dog' Baker.

William Rooker (chilling in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) is wonderful as Brown, joined by a cast of class character actors including psycho-supreme Brad Dourif {Blue Velvet, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), the inimitable Brion James (Bladerunner's stone killer, Leon) and Valerie Perrine. Most impressive about Freetand's film is that he has managed to duplicate Ellroy's feel for Fritz Brown's personality—a unique individual creation rather than a cliched two-dimensional gumshoe.

Fraud, self-destruction, old feuds and worse combine to yank Fritz into an underworld maelstrom of vice. Brown's Requiem was the novel James Ellroy wrote while trying to dry out and the horrors of the period carried over onto the page. Jason Freeland captures this with his camera and the combination is lethal. Low budget film­making at its most rewarding.

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