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The Crimson Code (May 31/02)

The Crimson Code has a fairly unique storyline, but squanders it with beyond subpar writing and poor acting.

Patrick Muldoon stars as an FBI agent, while Cathy Moriarty plays his jaded partner. As the movie opens, Muldoon and Moriarty are working in a small division of the FBI, where every other agent in the office belongs to something called "the red team." We don't find out exactly what the red team is all about until Muldoon saves Moriarty's life in a kidnapping attempt, and is invited to join. Turns out they're a gang of rogue cops that go around murdering supposed criminals. On his first night with the red team, Muldoon watches in horror as they drop a known pederast off a bridge. He's conflicted, so he turns to his old mentor (played by Fred Ward) in the hopes of gathering more information about the history and movements of the red team. Meanwhile, Muldoon is closely watching a suspect thought to have murdered several women. The suspect is played by '80s teen sensation C. Thomas Howell, who is virtually unrecognizable with his bald head and goatee. The two storylines eventually converge in a manner that defies logic.

Like I said, it's basically a good idea for a movie - a rogue gang of cops run around murdering so-called criminals - but the screenplay is so awful (both in dialogue and various events), that it becomes impossible to really get involved on any level. Here's an example of that horrible dialogue, to the best of my recollection:

Muldoon: What if your date goes badly?

Moriarty: Don't worry; I've got handcuffs.

Muldoon: But what if it goes well?

Moriarty: I've got handcuffs.

The film is filled with similar eye-rolling exchanges of dialogue, and the acting certainly never validates any of it. Leading the pack is Muldoon, who is actually better than he's been before (having seen The Second Arrival, believe me when I say this). Having gotten his start on Melrose Place, he's the sort that's doomed to forever toil in the straight-to-video market. He's not terrible, really; he's just been cursed with an abnormally high-pitched voice that leaves him unable to ever be taken seriously. He even attempts a crying scene here, and actually manages to look reasonably convincing. But Cathy Moriarty, on the other hand, as the grizzled, wise-cracking veteran of the force, is just awful in a role likely intended for a woman half her age. Her attempt at seducing Muldoon's character is about as convincing as a love triangle featuring Estelle Getty, Don Johnson, and Screech from Saved by the Bell would be.

The most ludicrous moment in the film, though, comes about midway through and Ward's character is helping Muldoon hack into the police mainframe. But, uh-oh, they're onto them and start a trace. Ward starts typing furiously to prevent his identity from becoming known, when all he really needed to do was unplug the computer's Internet connection. Lame.

And for what it's worth, we never do find out just what the title is referring to...

out of