Internal Affairs

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Mike Figgis’ Internal Affairs (1990) works within a sado-masochistic complex. Ray Avilla (Andy Garcia) is an Internal Affairs officer obsessed with putting away Dennis Peck (Richard Gere), a maniacal policeman. From the very start of the film Mike Figgis allows the audience to see the atrocities that Peck casually commits. That is to establish him as the villain (Peck is not above killing his partner), but later, when Peck is under investigation by Avilla, a new sadistic zeal overtakes his character. Peck, determined not to be put away by Avilla, befriends Avilla’s wife (Nancy Travis) and turns her against him. Later, he head-butts Avilla in an elevator and threatens to forcefully penetrate Avilla’s wife via her anus. Meanwhile, Peck is committing other crimes, working as a part time contract killer. The crimes, which occur once Avilla’s investigation has begun, become highly sexualized. The pleasure for Peck is now coming from the psychological terror he inflicts upon Avilla, and this pleasure becomes his primary motivation.

At the conclusion of Internal Affairs, Avilla is rushing home, having guessed correctly that Peck is there, terrorizing his wife. Richard Gere is splendidly sick in this scene, recalling Dennis Hopper’s work in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986). But Gere’s moment is cut short when Avilla shoots him through a window. This final turn of events provide an anti-climax, denying the resolution required for a relationship as bizarrely sexual and violent as that of Peck and Avilla. Instead, the audience is spoon-fed a happy ending which almost entirely negates the complicated relationship tediously built by Gere in the body of the film.

The ending isn’t too important to me here. What is the most arresting part of this film is the sexualization of violence, and the projecting of sexual fulfillment onto the violence perpetrated by the characters in this film (excluding Avilla). The heightened sexual nature of villains in the American Cinema of the 1980s and 90s is morbidly fascinating, though I am not qualified to speculate as to the root of such character constructs. Yet, it is surely indicative of an unhealthy socio-political phenomenon.