Its morality might be slightly askew and its mood desultory, but ''One Good Cop'' is an absorbing, exciting film that engages the viewer.
Michael Keaton stars as Artie Lewis, a New York cop who finds himself caring for the three orphaned daughters of a close friend, his partner who has died in the line of fire.
Keaton's wife is happy to have the girls. She has not been able to have children, and she sees this as a second chance, a chance to have the children she wanted.
Keaton is amenable to the suggestion, but he doesn't know how he'll be able to support the girls. He makes just so much money, his wife has to work, and they don't begin to have the cash necessary to buy a home.
What to do? Well, you'll have to see for yourself what this guy does, and while it poses questions of morality, the sunset is the familiar Technicolor one to which the principals make their way, to the satisfaction of the audience.
The surviving cop's dead buddy is played by Anthony La Paglia, who more or less took the recent ''Betsy's Wedding'' from everyone else with his portrayal of an exceedingly polite gangster.
Since then, La Paglia's career has zoomed. He dies when the new film is about half ended, but once more, he makes his presence known.
So does Keaton, who is really an excellent actor, a man who can do both comedy and drama, straight or mixed.
Rene Russo is the surviving cop's wife. You may have seen her in ''Mr. Destiny,'' in which she was one of the wives of James Belushi.
Tony Plana is Beniamino, a local drug king who is responsible for the death of Lewis' partner. Rachel Ticotin is the woman at Beniamino's side.
Kevin Conway plays Lieutenant Danny Quinn who, for a change, doesn't put Lewis (Keaton) on suspension or ask him to surrender his badge. For this alone, the film deserves an award for originality.
''One Good Cop,'' however, is close to being brutal. None of the violence is gratuitous, but it is there. This is the way it is on the streets of New York, and the film gives it to us in almost matter-of-fact style.
''One Good Cop'' was written and directed by Heywood Gould. Gould, best known as a screenwriter, has never directed before. This is his first film as a director. Give him an A.
''One Good Cop'' ** A New York cop finds himself caring for the three orphaned children of a buddy who has died in the line of fire.
CAST:Michael Keaton, Rene Russo, Anthony La Paglia, Kevin Conway, Rachel Ticotin, Tony Plana
DIRECTOR: Heywood Gould
RATING: R (violence, language)
* RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes.