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Chasing Ghosts (March 18/06)

Not even remotely the supernatural thriller its title seems to indicate, Chasing Ghosts is a slow-paced, extraordinarily talky drama revolving around a grizzled cop who must solve a series of brutal murders.

Michael Madsen stars as Kevin Harrison, a veteran of the force who finds himself saddled with new partner Cole Davies (played by Corey Large) while in the midst of a complicated murder investigation. Kevin is riddled with guilt over the death of fellow cop Mark Spencer (Michael Rooker), which he could've prevented had he not been in the pocket of a notorious gangster named Marcos Alfiri (Gary Busey). Mark's daughter, Taylor (Shannyn Sossamon), now looks at Kevin as a father figure, little imagining that he had something to do with Mark's death.

It's clear right off the bat that director Kyle Dean Jackson - working from Alan Pao's screenplay - has been heavily inspired by Se7en, as evidenced by the Fincheresque opening credits and virtually identical storyline (Madsen's character, days from retirement, must break in a new partner while working a particularly challenging case). The similarities end there, though, and Chasing Ghosts finally resembles an episode of Law and Order or CSI more than anything else.

Pao's reliance on cop movie cliches - in terms of characters (ie there's an Angry Captain) and plotting (a foot chase winds up at an abandoned warehouse) - is exacerbated by the seriously overlong running time, and there's just no shaking the feeling that the movie would've benefited greatly from some judicious editing and the removal of a few superfluous subplots (ie the tentative relationship that starts to form between Cole and Taylor). Likewise, the conclusion bears more than a passing resemblance to The Usual Suspects' finale and consequently doesn't quite pack the emotional wallop Pao is clearly aiming for.

Having said that, Chasing Ghosts does remain substantially better than the majority of its direct-to-video brethren - thanks primarily to the better-than-expected performances and Andrew Huebscher's sleek cinematography (although, in terms of the former, Madsen's usual hard-boiled thing doesn't exactly suit his character, a man who's supposed to be on the verge of complete self-destruction).

out of

About the DVD: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Chasing Ghosts with an anamorphically-enhanced 2.35:1 transfer (not, as indicated on the back of the DVD case, 1.85:1), along with four minutes worth of outtakes, a 12-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, two short featurettes, and a series of bonus trailers.