Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 11/9/03 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.
The Badge is a crime drama about a divorced sheriff who investigates a murder of a transsexual prostitute who has some strange connection to the upcoming governor elections in Louisiana. Along the way, he finds himself at odds with a friend of the prostitute, his ex-wife, and authorities as he loses his badge and tries to do the right thing and uncover the truth. Written and directed by Robby Henson, The Badge is a decent crime film despite its slow pacing and unoriginal storylines. Still, with a cast led by Billy Bob Thornton, Patricia Arquette, William Devane, Sela Ward, Tom Bower, Hill Harper, Julie Hagerty, Thomas Haden Church, and Jena Malone, it’s still a very mediocre crime film.
After finding the body of a transsexual prostitute named Mona (Cindy Roubal), a local sheriff in Darl Hardwick (Billy Bob Thornton) investigates what happened as he as various locals including church leader Sister Felica (Julie Hagerty) and his deputy C.B. (Ray McKinnon) about the body. While continuing work, Darl's personal life is in shambles as he's already divorced from his district attorney wife Carla (Sela Ward) while barely having a relationship with his teenage-Goth daughter Ashley (Jena Malone). Carla wants to have higher authorities to handle the case while Darl manages to get the approval of a local judge (William Devane) to continue the investigation. Darl then meets a woman from New Orleans named Scarlett (Patricia Arquette), who is revealed to be Mona's wife. A conversation with the two is interrupted by Darl's father Bull (Tom Bower) who remains despondent over the loss of his badge as Darl wonders about the secret his father is hiding.
Scarlett decides to help Darl with the investigation as he believes something is wrong as he's convinced as it's to do with the upcoming governor election that the judge is running for against current governor Joe Breraton (Michael Arata) whom Carla is dating. Darl crashes the party the governor is having as his suspicions is raised as he asks for Carla's help who refuses to help him. With news of a new casino arriving that Sister Felicia has been protesting against, Darl gets in trouble as he's forced to give up his badge and to stay in his local parish so he can stop the investigation. After learning from his dad what is going on, Darl risks his probation to help Scarlett as they meet her friends David (Thomas Haden Church) and Gizmo (Hill Harper) as they all learn that Mona's death was all part of a conspiracy involving corruption within the government.
What makes The Badge frustrating is Robby Henson’s approach to try to make a crime drama fresh but in the process, finds itself messy in one too many subplots involved. The revealed murderer isn’t just a disappointment but the story as a whole is a mess since there’s no real background to the murder or the corruption other than the fact that these candidates wanted power. Henson’s direction is mediocre at best despite the fact he can shoot some excellent dramatic scenes that get overshadowed by its plot. The problem with the film is a lack of a narrative structure, which makes the whole film uninteresting due to its slow pacing.
On the performance front, Billy Bob Thornton is excellent as Darl as he brings out a man who is trying to do the right thing while trying to fix whatever mess in his life. Patricia Arquette is brilliant as well, since she not only plays an excellent stripper, but someone smart and demanding and she brings in some great chemistry with Thornton. William Devane is fun and sly as the villainous judge although at first, he doesn’t seem bad towards the middle of the film. As for the rest of the cast, well despite their excellent performances, it’s overall a total waste. Sela Ward is only in a few scenes in the film, often arguing with Thornton while Jena Malone is excellent as a Goth teen though her screen time throughout the film is a disappointing ten minutes. Thomas Haden Church, Hill Harper, Tom Bower, and Julie Hagerty are all underused in their roles and are just wasted throughout the entire film. In the end, The Badge is a disappointing crime drama despite a great but underused cast.
(C) thevoid99 2011