''Homicide'' is a movie in need of an ending. We may know what was intended here, but it is not stated clearly enough.
''Homicide'' was shot in Baltimore. It was written and directed by David Mamet. Mamet is a product of the '60s. Early in his career, he wrote plays that didn't make much sense but won attention from some critics who went on about the hidden meaning in his plays.
In time, Mamet became less abstract. You could actually make sense of what he was writing. He did the script for ''The Untouchables.'' He also did ''Speed the Plow.''
Now, we have ''Homicide,'' which is both old and new Mamet. It is new Mamet in that it is linear for most of its running time. It is old Mamet in that it has no real ending, and this was the consensus of a number of people who saw the film at an advance screening, then went out in the hall and asked each other what it was all about.
What we do know is that Joe Mantegna is playing a plainclothes cop in a "major city" (Baltimore is never mentioned), that he wants to help nab a drug king and that at the same time he is curious about the death of an elderly Jewish woman who owned a corner story in a ghetto neighborhood.
The kids there talk about the fortune the victim allegedly had in her basement, but the cop suspects there is more to it than that. When he investigates, he stumbles on a group of Jewish men and women who are making war, in their own way, against hate sellers.
Trouble is, the members of this group are not much better than those they are fighting. Their methods are about the same. What does Mamet mean here? You'll have to ask him.
You'll also have to ask him if he intended to have his hero, a Jewish cop, seem indifferent, then commited to his heritage? If he does, he is not too clear about it.
Mantegna does well. He seems a bit puffy at first but in time is thoroughly believable as the cop who seems humane one minute, brutal the next.
In the end, we don't really now what kind of guy he is, how he feels or what he wants. Nor do we know what has happened to the anti-hate group. For that matter, we don't really know who killed the old woman, and we certainly don't know why the multiple killer (he has murdered his wife and three children) is being led down the hall at the close of this film.
There so many strings left untied in this film you could make a scatter rug out of them.
''Homicide'' opens today at the Senator. It looks like Baltimore, but then it could have been shot in just about any big city.
* A cop stumbles on an underground group fighting hate groups.
CAST: Joe Mantegna
DIRECTOR: David Mamet
RATING: R (language, violence)
) RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes