Tag Archives: cop movies

Berlinale 2021: Albatros (Drift Away)

Laurent is a good cop in a small town in Normandy, where little ever happens. The police work may be on the dull side but his recent engagement to Marie means his personal life makes up for it. Laurent (Jérémie Renier) and Marie (Marie-Julie Maille) have already been together long enough to share a home and a daughter, Poulette (Madeleine Beauvois), who was excited to be part of the low-key proposal. But then things take a turn for the more interesting.

A local farmer goes missing, armed with a rifle and seemingly suicidal after a series of failed inspections that threaten his livelihood. This being a small town, the farmer is known to Laurent, a friend. Laurent is obviously very motivated to have this man found safely, but does his familiarity cloud his judgement? When the farmer is eventually located, it leads to an altercation, resulting in Laurent discharging his weapon in an effort to prevent the farmer from taking his own life. Laurent kills him.

The aftermath is as messy as you’d expect. Everyone agrees it was an accident, but was it reckless? Negligent? The farmer’s sister obviously thinks so; she’s suing both Laurent and the force. Thrown into self-doubt, recrimination, and emotional turmoil, Laurent takes off on a journey he must take alone. Which, honestly, is where the film lost me. Up until it veers off into a very different direction, I was enjoying this slow-burn character study. Renier kept things dignified, stoic but just expressive enough to hint at upheaval behind the façade. Unfortunately, director Xavier Beauvois muddies the water with some confusing and unnecessary subplots, taking away from the power and potency of Renier’s performance.

Albatros’s final moments redeem some of its earlier mistakes but there’s no way the film needed to be two hours long, which seems to dilute the urgency and impact of what should have been the movie’s central themes. Albatros is a good idea unevenly executed, not quite saved from a stellar star performance.

The Little Things

Deke (Denzel Washington) is in L.A. from up north on some menial task, evidence transport or some such. He used to be on the force here, but no longer; his former colleagues don’t have great things to say about him, and they’re not shy about filling in the new guy, Baxter (Rami Malek) on all the ways Deke was found wanting. Mainly that he worked a case too hard, was so obsessed that he jeopardized his career, failed his marriage, and risked his health. Baxter, however, has some sympathy for Deke. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s a lot like him. He’s about to get a case that will haunt him in a very familiar way, and as Deke says – these are the ones that stay with you.

Deke has the opportunity to say this to Baxter because for some reason Deke sticks around to work the case with him. Totally unsanctioned of course – the dude has to sneakily take vacation from his real job to pursue this one totally against the rules. And Baxter lets him. Together they pursue an elusive serial killer, which leads them straight to Jared Leto. I mean, to Sparma, played by Jared Leto. And Jared Leto’s long greasy hair, distinguished gut, and totally unnecessary hitch in his giddyup – he literally walks around like he just got off an 8 hour horse ride over very rough terrain, only this is L.A. and even creeps like Sparma have a car. Anyway, Deke and Baxter agree that this guy is a Super Creep and that he’s guilty by virtue of just being so obviously a Super Creep. And honestly, Jared Leto so devotedly gives this guy every serial killer accessory he can think of that we openly despise him too, and don’t care much whether or not he’s actually guilty.

Anyway, as Deke likes to say, it’s the little things that add up, which is ironic because director John Lee Hancock, who also wrote those words, can’t even get the big things right. Hancock started writing this movie 30 years ago and it feels like any number of movies that have come out since, many of them much better, and all of them more original by default. But even if it wasn’t overly familiar, it would still lack suspense, or indeed any momentum. It’s a lot of moping around. You’ve perhaps come to see a trio of ostensibly talented Oscar-winning actors doing their thing but what you get is a solid performance by Denzel trapped in a shitty movie that has one of the most disappointing, anticlimactic third acts in cinematic history. The Little Things is available to stream, but why would you? This movie fails to satisfy in any way. You’ve got no places to go, no people to see, but you still have your dignity, and even during lockdown, time is precious.

Below Zero

Below Zero, despite its stupid name, is actually about a prison break – or a prison transport break, anyway. Yeah, it’s also cold outside. Big whoop. Calling it Below Zero is like calling Drive ’70 Degrees and Sunny’ or Blade Runner ‘Smoggy With a Chance of Rain.’ Incidental weather does not a title make.

Anyway. It’s Martin’s first day on a new police force so he’s been assigned to prisoner transport. Martin (Javier Gutiérrez) will be driving the truck, earringed officer Montesinos (Isak Férriz) will be in the back, and at least half a dozen prisoners will fill the little prisoner cubby holes en route to…well, who cares, the point is, they’ll never make it there. On a dark and foggy road, the truck loses track of the cop car escort that was leading the way. The truck blows a tire and the truck veers off the road. This is actually the least of Martin’s concerns. When this ambush is over, Martin will be the only officer still standing, trapped between the unknown baddies trying to break into the truck and the now loosed prisoners trying to break out. It’s a tough spot that’s only going to get tougher. The guys on the outside want one specific prisoner and will kill everyone and anyone else to get to him. That prisoner knows a bad deal when he sees it and refuses to leave. The truck is impenetrable except for the one key in Martin’s possession so there’s a three way standoff and the guy on the outside will stop at nothing to get his way.

This is not an exceptional movie, but it’s a pretty good one in the action crime genre, if less so from a character point of view. It’s effective, it’s tense, it’s nothing new but it’s well executed, and it’s playing on Netflix right now for your convenience.

Don’t Let Go

Jack Radcliff (David Oyelowo) is a detective who’s about to stumble upon the biggest case of his career and you’re not going to believe how he solves it.

A simple visit to his brother’s home reveals 3 corpses – those of his brutally murdered brother, his brother’s wife, and his brother’s daughter. The house is soaked with blood and reeks of violence, but what happened here, and how did things get this bad without Jack noticing? He’s racked with grief and guilt, utterly devastated to have failed the only family he had, and feeling acutely alone in the world when he gets a call from his niece, Ashley (Storm Reid). His dead niece Ashley, the one who was just murdered along with her parents. Ashley and uncle Jack have always been close, but this is ridiculous. Is it a ghost, a rip in time…or is Jack just losing his mind? You’ll have your theories, and the cops at Jack’s station will have theirs as well. What to do with a detective who won’t let go of his own brother’s case, who’s working something with a conflict of interest so big and so bold that no one knows how to tell him to stop? Crazy or not, Jack’s determined to work with the evidence he has, even if it’s coming from a dead girl – but is he trying to solve a crime, or stop it from happening in the first place?

Obviously you’re going to have to deal with a certain paranormal aspect to this film that doesn’t make much straight-up sense. Before you stream, ask yourself this: can I let go? Can you deal with something non-linear and non-logical? If not, there’s no shame in just walking away. There are other movies for you. But if you think you might be interested in a detective with a ghost sidekick and a magic smart phone that receives calls from the dead, then the good news is, Don’t Let Go‘s on Netflix, where you can give it a try, risk-free. If you can let go, this movie is not half bad. It’s not great, it’s a bit uneven and writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes doesn’t have the technical prowess to shoot it in a more interesting way, but the cast, including Brian Tyree Henry, Alfred Molina, and Mykelti Williamson, is talented, and they sell the mystery, the urgency, and the thrill. The big, philosophical questions remain unanswered – this is a murder mystery at its heart, not science fiction, but it does manage to combine different genres into an enjoyable and compelling watch.

Force of Nature

Officer Cardillo (Emile Hirsch) started the day off clothed in a bathtub, unable to commit suicide because his PTSD was a little too disturbing. He’s not exactly excited to spend his day evacuating people who don’t want to be evacuated ahead of hurricane in Puerto Rico, and he’s sure as heck not thrilled to be stuck doing it with rookie cop Jess (Stephanie Cayo). Little did he know, his day was about to get a whole lot worse.

A grocery store fight over the hording of meat has Cardillo and Jess following Griffin (William Catlett) back to his apartment, where it turns out he’s not the only hold out. Dr. Troy (Kate Bosworth) is there trying to evacuate her father (Mel Gibson, a surly ex-cop who relies on dialysis to live, and yet doesn’t appreciate the a storm power outage might mean. There’s another old man in the building, Bergkamp (Jorge Luis Ramos) who’s also refusing to leave, but evacuation becomes moot when a bunch of thieves led by John (David Zayas) take advantage of the storm to raid the building, making it all but impossible for anyone to escape with their lives.

Force of Nature has the bones of an 80s action movie but those old bones are not aging well, practically disintegrating into dust as we watch. This movie is a mess, so bad that I can only ask: is this intentional? It seems inconceivable that this many things can go wrong and it not be deliberate. I mean, first we have the exploitation of a Puerto Rican hurricane, which, okay, it’s a cheap ploy, but it’s also in poor taste considering the deadly Hurricane Maria, not only a terrible natural disaster, but a sickening political blunder as well. Then we have the white-saviour thing pushing a bad movie into downright ugly territory. Both Hirsch and Gibson play white cops in Puerto Rico taking on the no good very bad Puerto Rican criminal element (officially they’re art thieves, but the script is so eager to paint John with extra villainy that it has him murdering his own men needlessly). Now let’s add a layer that is almost inexplicable in its double badness: both Hirsch and Gibson hurt women. Emile Hirsch put a woman in a chokehold, and dragged her across a table with his hands around her throat to body slam her to the ground. And yet Gibson makes him look like a puppy. Mel Gibson is a flagrant anti-Semite. And homophone. And misogynist. Yes, he’s beaten the mother of his own child. Yes he’s used the n-word while threatening rape. And that’s just what’s been caught on tape. He’s 10 000% a bad dude and if Michael Polish wants to work with him, I don’t think Polish gets a pass either. When you cast not one but two Hollywood delinquents in white saviour roles, you’re taking deliberate swings at the bee’s nest and you deserve to get stung. You might even think that this is a bit of stunt casting to make up for the film being pretty terrible to start with, but that just begs the question: why make it at all?

Think of all the female film makers, and the people of colour, shopping promising projects around Hollywood without having a single door opened to them, but this shit is getting green-lit? In 2020, it’s a slap in the face. And yet it’s pathetic choice of cast is not what sinks this movie – it does that all on its own merits.

Rogue City (Bronx)

Once upon a time there was an almost romance to rogue cops who believed themselves to be above the law. But as the world rallies and protests against such offending officers in real life, the landscape has changed even if writer-director Olivier Marchal hasn’t yet adapted and his film still attempts to glamourize criminal cops.

Discounting Marchal’s tactless inability to read the room, his film is technically well made but deathly boring. It attempts to follow a thread of corruption between cops and criminals but he quickly loses track of characters and plot and if he can’t keep track, how the heck am I supposed to? He doesn’t give me a single reason to care, and I think his only concern is getting to another action sequence. In fact, I’d argue that his opening sequence is misleading, and not even deliberately so. It makes it difficult to determine who the protagonist is, and the heroes are already indistinguishable from the anti-heroes who are indistinguishable from the villains. To Marchal, they’re all just fodder for his next gun-fight, and while it’s clear he’s got a certain panache for shoot outs, anything and everything in between is basically garbage.

There isn’t a machete in the world to help you navigate this slog-fest or cut through all the bullshit. You need only ask yourself one question: do you value the gun violence enough to sit through the rest?

Unknown Origins

Detective Cosme (Antonio Resines) is being put out to pasture, but he’s showing his young replacement, Detective Valentine (Javier Rey), the ropes before he goes. They inspect a gruesome crime scene together, a possible homicide of course, a maniac bodybuilder so intent on building muscle mass he winds up with a windpipe crushed by his own weights. Cosme is meticulous and organized in his habits, in direct opposition to his son Jorge (Brays Efe), your classic lazy slob, a good for nothing grown son who works at a comic book store when and if he gets out of bed and still lives at home. But luckily for Cosme and Valentin, Jorge spots something neither of them ever could: the crime scene looks suspiciously like a panel from issue #1 of The Incredible Hulk. And the next murder scene they’re called to seems to be another comic book recreation. Madrid has a serial killer on its hands, and Valentin will have to tolerate Jorge’s help to stop the man bent on using seemingly random victims to imitate various superheroes’ origin stories. Oh, and did I mention Valentin’s beautiful new boss Norma (Verónica Echegui) is a bit of a cosplaying geek herself? Yeah.

This cop movie is spiced heavily with super hero flavour. If you know and love comics, you’ll likely predict the outcome a lot faster than the rest of us, and pick up on clues and cues planted specifically for your discerning eye. The film is a little uneven, sometimes cheesy heroic catch phrases, sometimes gritty police procedural, sometimes real horror and gore, other times goofy costumes. And yet it’s obvious that director David Galán Galindo is not only offering a send up to the super hero genre, he’s inspired by it, influenced by it, and given it a more real-world setting than others have been able to. It’s less slick than M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, less glossy, less ambitious, but it’s obvious too. The script is occasionally awkward and juvenile, and the sole female character could use a fuller and more subtle approach, but mostly Unknown Origins is a story we know very well, and it works because we love the genre and we can never get enough.

Trauma Center

Madison Taylor (Nicky Whelan) is having a heck of a day. First she has the misfortune of walking in on a murder in progress, and then she takes a bullet to the leg in the crossfire. She wakes up in the hospital with dependable Lt. Steve Wakes (Bruce Willis) assigned to her protection; she is a key witness to the crime. But Wakes leaves almost immediately, and sure he’s doing his job “solving the murder” but he’s kind of “a really shitty protector” since he LEAVES HER ALL ALONE. So of course the murderers seize their opportunity, and now poor Madison is limping away through the halls of a locked down hospital, desperately trying to evade some very bad guys who, ironically, would very much like to shoot her dead. I’m calling it ironic because the reason they want her dead is because the bullet in her leg is evidence of their crime, so they want to plug her with a few new ones, but scoop that first bad boy out, because some dirty cop went and pulled his service revolver during a crime and that shit is traceable.

Three things to know:

He doesn’t look half as baffled as I feel. Believe me.
  1. The hospital is on “lockdown” which basically just means that the exits have been sealed off. It is still a functioning hospital, at least upstairs, where Madison’s little sister is a patient (panic attack? asthma attack? something like that). Madison and her stalkers are mostly in the basement, which has an abandoned, horror movie feel.
  2. Lt. Steve Wakes has abandoned his post, and the basement obviously gets very poor cell service. But can he even be trusted? The criminals are cops and trusting one of them, especially a flake, is a lot to ask of a woman who’s got police force ammunition buried in her flesh.
  3. Steve Guttenberg plays a doctor. That’s actually not at all important, it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part. You’d call it a cameo if he was at all famous anymore, but in his case it’s probably better called a “bit part.” But still: Steve Guttenberg! If you’re at all prone to pity spirals or second hand shame, do NOT read his IMDB page.

Anyway, the killer cops just basically hunt her in some creepy medical settings, unsuccessfully enough to really stretch the bounds of credibility, while Whelan does her best to look sexy in a hospital gown.

Bruce Willis is…not good. His character is MIA for a good chunk of the movie and he’s still remarkably bad. I blame Die Hard, really. It convinced Sean to always bet on Bruce, and he always does, and somehow I’m the one who always loses. Does anyone even remember the last time he was good? Please get back to me ASAP – my Netflix queue depends on it.

Bad Boys for Life

Will Smith is 51 years old; costar Martin Lawrence is 55. Their characters, Mike Lowry and Marcus Burnett, are feeling every bit of their age on the Miami police department where they haven’t been boys for quite some time, and are maybe looking to be a little less bad. But ‘Good Men’ just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

Like always, Marcus is trying to talk himself into quitting – or in this case, 25 years after the first installment – retire. And as always, Mike pshaws his excuses and presses him into further recklessness. Age hasn’t mellowed Mike nearly enough. He’s still the guy scorching through the streets in his Porsche, shooting first and asking questions never, still giving his Captain (Joe Pantoliano) heart palpitations which are increasingly risky now that they’re all AARP eligible.

Currently Miami is being terrorized by the systematic assassination of every member of law enforcement who worked a case a quarter century ago. A mother-son pair of drug lords (Kate del Castillo, Jacob Scipio) are behind the bloody vengeance but they’ve proved virtually untouchable thus far. Mike has every reason to sit this one out, which inevitably means he’s going to barge right in, invited or not, so he gets assigned to the AMMO team headed by his ex Rita (Paola Nuñez) which will now have to solve the case while babysitting the legendary detective who acts more like a toddler with an assault rifle.

Bad Boys for Life is the third in the franchise and the first that isn’t directed by Michael Bay. Don’t worry though, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Adil & Bilall) are adept at mimicking his style, recreating several iconic shots from the previous films, making fans feel right at home. As if that wasn’t enough, they even worked Bay in with a cameo, both as a very minor character in the film, and as the director of that particular scene, which features his signature 360 degree shot.

There may be a little more gray in their beards and a little less spring in their steps, but Smith and Lawrence recapture their dynamic and deliver an exciting and fun addition to the franchise. This movie has everything you’ve come to expect from the trilogy and manages to deliver it in a way that doesn’t feel derivative. While no one will ever call it a ‘good film,’ it is every bit the film that fans deserve, and I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed by it. Ludicrous car chases, improbable explosions, random impalement, a menacing helicopter and a blacked out motorcycle – Bad Boys for Life is a high octane delivery system for all the ‘Bayhem’ the original helped make industry standard. Yes, it’s junk food, but as far as greasy take-out goes, this burger is top notch.

Coffee and Kareem

Twelve year old Kareem isn’t impressed with his mom’s new boyfriend, police officer James Coffee (Ed Helms) of the Detroit PD. Kareem is a lot of things but passive aggressive isn’t one of them, so his not-so-subtle hint basically involves hiring a criminal to “scare” Coffee dead, or paralyzed from the waist down at least. I know what you’re thinking: sounds like a good plan. And it almost would have been had Kareem not involved an actual criminal, which gets both he and Coffee into some pretty hot trouble.

The worst part is now they’ll have to work together to escape Detroit’s most notorious drug lord, and perhaps scarier still, explain to Kareem’s mom Vanessa (Taraji P. Henson) just where the heck they’ve been.

This is the buddy cop movie 2020’s been asking for: white cop with a molester mustache and a black kid running amok in a city that has more bad neighbourhoods than good. How else are we going to cure racism?

And it’s the movie we’ve all been craving when we’re on week 3 of our quarantine: funny. I know, it’s rare for a comedy lately to score actual laughs, and the humour in this is admittedly pretty crude (especially the stuff coming from the kid’s mouth), so some might be dissuaded and that’s okay. But neither of these guys has ever met a situation they couldn’t accidentally make worse.

This is not a thinking man’s comedy. It isn’t smart or clever, and it falters every time it tries to be. It’s some madcap fun with fairly unlikable characters, and a pretty generous pour of action and adventure. There’s no lack of violence and there’s some pretty fun new takes on car chases that might just win them some points. But mostly it’s just some mindless chicanery with a side of explosive gore, and right now, I’m not asking for much more.