For some filmmakers, the old-fashioned battle of good and evil apparently isn’t enough. Internal Affairs takes a simple good cop-bad cop story and loads it down with attempts at social, sexual, and philosophical points that don’t add up.
Raymond Avilla (Andy Garcia), a newly minted Los Angeles Police Dept. internal affairs officer, is a Latin hothead too involved with work to fulfill his conjugal duties. Patrolman Dennis Peck (Richard Gere) is a crooked potentate with the time to amass an after-hours fortune and satisfy a stable of women. While investigating Peck’s partner for excessive force, Avilla and his partner, Roseanne’s Laurie Metcalf, uncover a network of illicit activities in which Peck is clearly the bad boy.
As the two evenly matched men play out their predictable and brutal game of cat and mouse, Peck counterattacks his nemesis by threatening to seduce Avilla’s wife. Internal Affairs lingers over the theme of women’s needs and men’s deficiencies, but a moral conclusion is never forthcoming.
Playing a coldhearted killer is too easy for Gere, an actor whose basic emotional repertoire runs from impassive to smug. But it was a smart career move, and Gere manages a certain unctuous charm. This tireless love vigilante manages to battle or bed every prominent character in the film, never losing his smirk. Meanwhile, the more talented Garcia’s abilities go unchallenged, hidden behind an unblinking stare.
But neither actor is a match for the movie’s herky-jerky editing or the confused script that tries to turn their conflict into a commentary on our times, most tellingly in the climactic scene’s payoff line: ”You selfish yuppie!” And that’s said to the good guy.