Following two earlier vidpix starring Brian Dennehy and spun off from actual South Chicago police files and the exploits of tough-as-nails detective Jack Reed, “Search for Justice” marks actor/writer Dennehy’s directorial debut. The parlay pays off: Superior whiplash pacing and an interlock of above-average performances boost this effort in the welter of recent cops-vs.-crime, cops-vs.-civic corruption and cops-vs.-conscience TV fare.
In “Badge of Honor,” veteran detective Reed (Dennehy) blew the whistle on within-the-force corruption, sending a well-regarded officer to prison.
Now Reed faces the animosity of colleagues for his one-man cleanup campaign, and fumes as a lesser cop (Charles S. Dutton) is promoted over him in the name of affirmative action.
Together they set out on a case in which the known murderer (Miguel Ferrer) is also a highly regarded bigwig likely to be protected by civic leaders.
The murder case, though grisly, resolves along predictable lines. What sends “Justice” over the top is the aggregation of well-written lesser characters, among them Susan Ruttan as Reed’s uncommonly intelligent and helpful wife, Ferrer as the well-off villain and Joe Grifasi as an unwilling murder accomplice.
Dennehy’s character, a strong and fluid mix of career disillusionment and obsessive law-and-order loyalty, overshadows the work of his remarkable cast, but not by much.