Left-leaning director John Sayles’s unapologetic politics have inspired near masterpieces, such as “Matewan” (1987), and near disasters, such as “City of Hope” (1991). In his latest film, he’s dropped the polemics and settled in for a more-or-less conventional combination of crime story, family melodrama, and buddy film. Though fitfully entertaining, it lacks the conviction and urgency present in even the weakest of his quasi agit-prop productions.
Come to think of it, his new film kind of resembles one of its three main characters, Freddy Suárez (Edward James Olmos). A latter-day Rooster Cogburn, he’s a disgraced former LAPD detective, once nicknamed “The Terminator.” Now in debt-ridden limbo, he’s lost a step or two since his prime. He’s grown a pot belly, and swapped most of his ideals for a banal cynicism. Most embarrassing, his eyes are failing him, so whenever he reads a map or shoots a gun he resembles Mr. Magoo more than Arnold Schwarzenegger.