Joe Mantegna did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bobby Gold in Homicide.
Homicide, yeah homicide, that's the name of an act and film. It's two things, right, maybe a metaphor or two. What the hell do I know. It's like a movie where everybody talks. Talks with this way of speaking. You know what I'm saying? Well do you? There are spaces to make sure you hear what I'm saying though. Make sure you here it right clear like I'm talking to someone else, but instead I'm monologuing. Monologuing like I'm a stage actor, but hey I'm suppose to be here talkin up a film. A film performance that is. A film where everyone talks a little strange. The plot seems a little convoluted. You know the type of film? Ever see Redbelt? A bit like that, although at least here, in this film, you can see at least some connections to the complications. If you know what I'm saying. All the supporting characters though they still all seem strange in their weird way of speaking through monologue, that isn't at all cinematic. David Mamet. Ever hear of the guy? Well it seems he could use another set of eyes to adapt his words on film, even just to direct em if you know what I'm saying. You see his words. His words, yeah, they're just a too thick, too thick for their own cake, like bad bunt cake. Ever have a bad bunt cake? Hopefully not, I wouldn't inflict you with that disease of the guttural intestines. This film, even as is, isn't terrible, not great, potential there you know. Doesn't come together. Also how are you suppose to believe Ricky Jay could physically impose Joe Mantegna, not the easiest pill to swallow, maybe he was using some slight of fist.
Okay, I'll stop writing like that and focus on once again the element of Mamet's film that manages to overcome the burdens from his way of directing his own work. Once again it is in the lead character who is the only character who seems to come to life. This again comes partially from the storytelling which doesn't effectively intertwine its elements partially because it doesn't quite develop them enough. The one element it does develop though is the central character who is given life by Mamet's frequent collaborator Joe Mantegna. Mantegna does need to contest with bit of Mamet's stylized dialogue, often overly stylized, however Mantegna is able to ease this a bit. One he is one of the better actors in terms of delivery of it anyway that makes it at all sound natural. He is helped further though by thankfully the character of Bobby Gold only needing a bit of it. He thankfully gets to be a bit more grounded and frankly more cinematic. Mantegna in turn is able to give a far more cinematic turn here that is the center of the film even beyond the lead. In that he is the true cohesion of the film as Gold deals with the two wildly contrasting plots, and has to connect them essentially by creating the personal journey of Gold in how it connects with the mystery and the manhunt.
Mantegna from his first scene is effective in establishing really this duality of the character. In that on one end as he discusses police procedure, and his procedure as detective in a most personal way, as in just specifically speaking of his own methods Mantegna brings this confidence and control of a true professional. He has the right calm and intensity of his eyes of a man who is well reasoned and well seasoned in his position. This is against the moment where he loses this comfort from either a hostile colleague or even a captive prisoner physically attacking him in order to try to steal his gun. Mantegna reveals this considerable unease even beyond the attack itself. There is this discomfort that reveals a greater anxiety in his reactions. A palatable desperation of a man who is not just uncomfortable in the situation, but also in terms of his sense of place within his profession. Mantegna naturally affords the character this duality by creating this sense of calm when only there can be a detachment. Even when he fawned over by his hero-worshiping partner (William H. Macy) Mantegna shows an appreciation only through his delivery that emphasis a courtesy, while physically reflecting this unease even in processing this type of support. Mantegna reveals a detective who has fashioned his place through his work as a detective, but as a man still is lost.
Mantegna uses this setup well then to explore the two avenues that reveal themselves as he tries to track criminal as a typical detective, and tries to solve the murder of the Jewish woman that forces him to examine his own, lost, heritage. We initially see this as he succeeds in the interactions towards the tracking with that same detached confidence, but with the murder investigation Mantegna portrays so well this pained forced connection. A way as he reacts with such unease to any sight that forces him to think about his own place as a Jew and what it means to him. Mantegna is able to bring the appropriate humanity to this struggle, which is a bit too academically worded by the supporting characters within this plot line. Mantegna successfully captures far more nuance in his portrayal of how this investigation in a inflicts him with his true sense of a lost identity. This is something he finds so well early on in his reactions that Mantegna shows in his eyes clearly reach him on a deeper level as he sees Jewish custom around this murder. He initially seems to try to hide this, by the same way he himself is dismissed by others, by self-hating antisemitism which Mantegna delivers so well as this specific yet hollow outrage as though he is simply aping others that seems ill-fitting to Gold.
Mantegna develops gradually this loss of distance as the reactions begin to also bring a greater depth into his direct delivery in the moments of trying to uncover the truth. This leads him deeper into his own culture/religion and Mantegna delivers this emotional connection through showing almost a relief when he stumbles upon a Zionist organization in his city. Briefly Mantegna reveals still hesitation but finally some comfort as he speaks more openly with the group, and even aids them in the arson of an anti-Semitic group's headquarters. Homicide being a Mamet film though quickly reveals this to be ruse by the organization to try to use Gold's connections in the police force to their benefit. Although this rushed Mantegna manages to at least bring a genuine emotion to this in his realization of the heartbreak of the moment of again being lost in his own identity. This quickly rams Gold into his other plot line following the crook which is connected only through Mantegna's performance. Mantegna does deliver though in realizing the emotionally spent state of Gold in every harried moment and exasperated work spoken as a man who really is fed up with life. He only speaks dripping with a caustic hate and cynicism that he essentially tries to bring down the criminal (Ving Rhames) to his level of thought. This is more or less where the film leaves us, and the film itself doesn't quite come together towards something wholly remarkable. Mantegna though does overcome the material, and in some ways makes it digestible by giving a moving portrait of a detective trying to come terms with his own self through his investigations. It doesn't make the film itself wholly successful, however Mantegna at least offers a stable emotional center through his successful performance.