The Flock is a nifty little crime film that came out in 2007. Richard Gere stars as Errol Babbage, a sex offender registrar who watches over paroled sickos. Due to his overzealous methods and bad attitude, Erroll is being replaced by the green Alison (Clare Danes), and has a week to show her the ropes. At the same time, a young woman is abducted. Erroll believes that one of his “flock” is responsible for the crime and sets out to find them.
Bauer Martinez Studios, the folks who produced The Flock, had only made mostly budgeted films before this $35 million production was announced. Casting Gere seemed like a good choice for the grizzled Babbage and when famous Asian director Andrew Lau signed on, it became apparent that the finished film would at least be interesting, if not successful. Not long after, MGM agreed to distribute domestically. What could go wrong?
Well, after numerous negative test screenings, the studio took the film from director Lau and decided to create their own version. That edit was released theatrically in international markets and fared poorly at the box office. Still dissatisfied, Bauer Martinez went ahead and created another version that became known as the US cut. Not long after, MGM dropped the film after a contract dispute with Bauer Martinez. They in turn sold the film to the infamous Weinstein brothers who premiered the film on DVD.
THE FLOCK (105 MINUTE INTERNATIONAL CUT)
This version of the film, like so many mid 2000’s thrillers, has been edited into oblivion by the producers. Instead of subtle direction and editing that brings out the performances, the pic is a jumpy, stuttering mess that looks like it was cut by someone with tourettes who had overdosed on meth.
Every scene is twitchy and full of static, with fast dissolves and shots overlapping. It’s such a brutal stylistic choice, that even the late Tony Scott would have shook his head in disapproval. Instead of being cool and disturbing, like Se7en, it comes off as disingenuous and manufactured. This version also sacrifices story and execution in favour of bright lights and over exposed landscapes. Speaking of over exposure, this version of the film is painfully bright to the point that it’s distracting and works against the film. There are glimpses at what could have been had care been taken with the editing, and thankfully much of Gere’s excellent performance remains, but it’s mostly all pointless.
The ending in this version is unsatisfying also, with numerous character threads left dangling and unresolved, but I guess when your main goal is to dazzle everyone with fancy, edgy edits, cohesive storytelling doesn’t matter. While very flashy, and not totally without merit, this version of The Flock feels much longer and convoluted than it needs to be.
THE FLOCK (96 MINUTE USA VERSION)
This incarnation of the film is much better and cohesive than the overbaked International Version. The premise is exactly the same, but scenes are shortened and much of the pointless flashiness and in-your-face editing have been removed. In standard form, this version is left to tell it’s story and showcase the actors.
The performances get to breathe and have life. We get to know the characters better and we get to feel their rage and anger instead of having our brain fried with over-kinetic editing. Gere’s character, in particular, gets a resolution of sorts and the ending is much more ambiguous and interesting, like the conclusion of Taxi Driver.
The over exposed brightness and extreme colour correction have also been removed and I can’t say I miss them. Scenes play out like a normal film and plot points are easier to follow and the story is more concise and flows.
I’d rather watch this version any day. Gere is the star of this film, and rightly so. The 96 minute version focuses on his character, and the picture is better for it. Shame the film, and his performance, didn’t get the acclaim they deserved.
Hardly an action film, The Flock is a gritty thriller with bouts of unpleasant violence. I urge everyone who likes their thrillers slightly off centre to check out the US cut. There’s much to enjoy and it doesn’t cause headaches.