Charles Bronson has been here before: In “A Family of Cops” he plays a wise and weary man in blue who challenges the conventional wisdom of a police department while dealing with family crises and personal demons. The result is a seemingly phoned-in performance in a telefilm that pales considerably against such current web fare as “Law & Order” and “Homicide: Life on the Street.”
Bronson stars as inspector Paul Fein, whose daughter Jackie (Angela Featherstone) has come home to Milwaukee to celebrate her father’s birthday.
After a one-night stand with financier Adam Novacek (Simon MacCorkindale), one of the country’s wealthiest men, Jackie finds herself accused of killing the guy. Expectedly — and despite her checkered past and her current status on probation — Paul Fein believes in his daughter’s innocence, and the family, which boasts three coppers and a public defender, rallies to prove Jackie’s innocence.
The mildly interesting whodunit takes an eternity to set up and is riddled with predictable subplots. The only fireworks scribe Joel Blasberg can conjure up stem from the friction between the elder Fein and middle son Ben (Daniel Baldwin), his key lieutenant, who is unconvinced of Jackie’s purity.
The gruff interaction between the pair grows tiresome, as does Baldwin’s reactionary character; Blasberg heavily relies upon Ben’s self-righteous indignation as a device to underscore the family differences, particularly when it comes to Jackie.
The relationship between Jackie and elder sister Kate (Barbara Williams) — a public defender who takes her oath too seriously, especially in Jackie’s presence — is another vein that’s bled dry by the scripter and producers.
With so much anger among the characters, viewers are unlikely to identify with any of them, and by show’s close probably won’t care what happens to Jackie.
Baldwin is almost painful to watch as the perpetually angry, lacking-in-refinement detective. Many viewers are likely to wonder why he bailed from the superbly crafted “Homicide” only to land in this low-rent rehash.
Bronson is as predictable as the plot pivots, melding his roles in “The Stone Killer” and “Death Wish” to create a bland, patriarchal police chief who balances the needs of his family against those of the department.
Featherstone is the only bright spot, demonstrating considerable acting skills in a limited setting as Jackie, a booze-guzzling, halter-topped party girl with barely enough common sense to fill a thimble and a hairdo that would shock Vidal Sassoon.
Director Ted Kotcheff can’t rely on his comic expertise (“North Dallas Forty”) and is forced to play this drama straight and unimaginatively. Under his direction, telefilm’s characters are mostly unmemorable. An occasional pratfall would have been welcome.