Review: ‘Florida City’

A gloomy Everglades noir set in the eponymous town during the days leading up to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, "Florida City" goes about its business like one of those roadside tourist attractions where the culture and customs of some bygone era are re-enacted for paying customers. A surprisingly rich period look and higher-than-average production values are the only things that distinguish this otherwise by-the-numbers murder-mystery, full of ham-fisted acting and on-the-nose dialogue. Its destiny as a latenight cable and video item awaits.

A gloomy Everglades noir set in the eponymous town during the days leading up to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, “Florida City” goes about its business like one of those roadside tourist attractions where the culture and customs of some bygone era are re-enacted for paying customers. A surprisingly rich period look and higher-than-average production values are the only things that distinguish this otherwise by-the-numbers murder-mystery, full of ham-fisted acting and on-the-nose dialogue. Its destiny as a latenight cable and video item awaits.

Allegedly based on a true story, this dimestore “Chinatown” (albeit with more humidity and southern drawls) concerns the efforts of drunk-by-noon police chief John Haleran (Zen Gesner) to shape up and find the murderer of a young Japanese girl whose body has washed ashore in the surrounding swamplands. With the aid of his retired predecessor (fine character actor Morgan Sheppard), Haleran discovers the dead girl is but the tip of a conspiratorial iceberg that involves the U.S. military and its efforts to keep crucial WWII info hidden from the public. Lots of molasses-paced twists and cul-de-sac-shaped turns ensue.

Florida City

Production

A Treat Yourself Films presentation in association with Valencia Motion Pictures of a Nancy T. Hector production. Produced by Paul Sirmons, Ralph R. Clemente. Executive producers, Nancy T. Hector, Paul N. Lazerus, III. Co-producers, Phil Dunkle, Robert C. Hector Jr., Rick Rietveld, Frederick H. Keeve. Directed by Ralph R. Clemente. Screenplay, Stephen Bowles, Peter A. Zorn Jr.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color), Stephen F. Campbell; editor, George P. Rizkallah; music, Ken Hatley; production designer, Nick Farrantello; costume designer, Beverly Safier. Reviewed on videocassette, L.A., April 20, 2003. (In Method Fest Film Festival.) Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Zen Gesner, Jeannetta Arnette, Morgan Sheppard, James Bates, James Brett Rice, Talia Osteen, George "The Animal" Steele.
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