Though Monteith's character is the prime mover of the story, he has little more screentime here than he would on an average "Glee" episode, with the spotlight trained firmly on Morse's titular Philadelphia detective, Eugene "Mack" McCanick. So salty that he seems on the verge of pickling, McCanick is the gruff, shoot-first precinct veteran paired with a young pretty-boy go-getter (Mike Vogel), and as he arrives to work on his birthday, he's enraged to get word that Simon Weeks (Monteith), a teenage criminal he put away seven years ago, has been released early from prison. McCanick's commander (Hinds) warns him not to pursue the man, hinting at an uncomfortable bit of history that all characters involved go out of their way to avoid discussing directly.
In the early going, director Josh C. Waller (working from Daniel Noah's script) at least manages to cook up a decent degree of ambiance, with lived-in Philly locations that feel real without being ostentatiously gritty. Yet it doesn't take long for its relentless unoriginality to become an issue -- it's worth a chuckle when a fellow cop asks McCanick, "who do you think you are, Popeye fucking Doyle?" though the joke stops being funny by the time McCanick shoots a suspect in the back, angrily pounds on closing subway doors, and commandeers a civilian vehicle to chase a train. Even less amusing is the film's aggressively senseless denouement, which is so tonally, logically and narratively inconsistent with the rest of the film it initially reads as a joke.
Spending most of his scenes playing a character a decade his junior, Monteith delivers a very solid, professional performance that's far enough against type that it may attract some overblown praise, though there's only so much he can do with such a basic, straightforward part. Morse and Hinds could probably play these roles while asleep, and the fact that they don't gives the film a welcome boost in character.
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