As a storyline I don't actually think much to "Internal Affairs" as the whole dirty cop / Internal Affairs story has been done before and since and frankly a lot of what goes on in "Internal Affairs" is routine. But then as a movie "Internal Affairs" works because Mike Figgis creates great atmosphere and Richard Gere delivers one of his finest performances. In fact I would go further and say that Richard Gere is the main reason why this routine thriller comes to life because he makes the dangerous Dennis Peck seriously dangerous almost in a mob boss sort of way, bossing people around, getting tough on those he needs to deal with or intimidate and getting into the minds of those who threaten him.
Having just joined Internal Affairs Raymond Avilla (Andy Garcia - The Untouchables) along with his partner Amy Wallace (Laurie Metcalf) investigates an old academy friend of his Van Stretch (William Baldwin). There investigation into Stretch leads them to Dennis Peck (Richard Gere - No Mercy) a cop who is highly praised by his superiors but is as crooked as they come with a whole group of officers indebted to him thanks to some dodgy favours. Realising that he is being investigated Peck gets to work on Avilla, getting under his skin and manipulating him in order to collapse his whole world.
Now you have to accept quite a bit when watching "Internal Affairs" no more so than brand new IA agent Raymond Avilla not being intimidated by his superiors and pushing his first case forward. You also have to accept that officers punch it out with no recrimination even when done in broad daylight. There are just a couple of the flaws which prevent "Internal Affairs" from being a great movie.
But there is something else which prevents it from being great and that is the rather routine storyline. As I already mentioned movies about Internal Affairs investigating crooked cops is nothing new, not back in 1990 when this came out and there have been plenty since. As such whilst we have Dennis Peck a Cop-father character that has his connections and bosses his fellow officers around as if they were his foot soldiers the whole story of new IA agent Raymond and his partner Amy investigating his private life and how comes he and those he associates with have so money is not that exciting. It is slightly comical especially when it is established that Amy is a "Dyke" as the movie puts it with both Raymond and Amy eyeing up the same woman who walks past them. But even so "Internal Affairs" almost has a feeling of being just another thriller.
What stops it from being just another cop thriller is Richard Gere who playing a bad guy for once allows him to deliver a different and superior performance. From the moment we meet him as he plants a knife on an unarmed man a fellow officer shot we know that not only is he corrupt but clever because in that one slick move he now has another officer indebted to him. We see this more as those who owe him become his own personal force which he orders about in a jovial but yet sinister fashion. But there is more to it than this and Gere gets every aspect of the character perfectly be it the fearless intimidation of those he has to face off to, to the mind games he plays as he twists the knife into Avilla as he suggests he is screwing his wife. Gere makes Peck so dangerous, so cunning that you do wonder whether come the end of the movie he will get away with everything he is being investigated for.
Because Gere is on such great form it knocks the rest of the cast in to the shadows especially Andy Garcia who often is forced to over act to try and grab some limelight away from him. It is a shame because Garcia also gets across how dangerous his own character is, persistent in his hunt of getting Peck, but those moments where it feels forced blight it. Then there is Laurie Metcalf as Amy Wallace the "dyke" and whilst playing a serious character there is this simple humour going on in Amy's attitude which adds a nice bit of relief to the drama.
What this all boils down to is that "Internals Affair" is not a great movie because it doesn't really do anything new with the Internal Affairs / Crooked Cop set up. But it does feature a brilliant performance from Richard Gere who is menacing and dangerous which makes the movie come to life.