Monday, June 25, 2018

Movie Review: Black Cop

Black Cop *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Cory Bowles.
Written by: Cory Bowles.
Written by: Ronnie Rowe Jr. (Black Cop), Sophia Walker (Rookie Cop), Sebastien Labelle (White Cop), Simon Paul Mutuyimana (Hoodie), Christian Murray (Running Man), Ambyr Dunn (Driver), Taylor Olson (Student), Jeff Schwager (Hard Cop), Emmanuel John (Blipster), Matthew McIntyre (Passenger), Koumbie (Rally Leader), Bob Mann (Pissed Dad), Ira Henderson (Customer), Keegan Blue (SG), Nathan Simmons (Resisting Youth), Devon Taylor (Quiet Youth), Kirsten Olivia Taylor (Demonstrator), Andre Lucas Fenton (Poet).
Black Cop is a provocative satire about race and policing in America. It basically asks two questions – the first is what it means to be both black and a police officer, and the second what would happen if white people were subjected to the same treatment at the hands of police that black people are? Debut filmmaker Cory Bowles has crafted a messy film that asks questions, even if it doesn’t have the answers. It doesn’t need them – the questions are enough.
The title character pointedly doesn’t have a name other than Black Cop – and is played in a wonderful performance by Ronnie Rowe Jr. In the opening scenes, set during Black Lives Matters protests, it looks like Black Cop doesn’t much care about his follow black citizens – he ignores the taunts and the yelling, as he calmly chews gum – smirking when they yell at him, and pushing back the protesters – gently – when they get too close. But as Black Cop directly addresses the camera, the truth is more complicated. He knows all too well what his community is going through – his father told him how to deal with police from a young age – if a cop approaches you for any reason at any time – raise your hands, answer the questions politely, and prey. His father meant it as a warning – but Black Cop took it another way – wanting that kind of power that he can only get if he is an officer. What really changes things for Black Cop is when he is walking down the street – just having bought a bottle of water – and being confronted by two white cops, who do not give him respect or even time to answer – and who seem all too willing to draw their guns on him. He escapes that situation – but it finally pushes him too far. When he goes to work the next day, he declares it his “retirement day” – and he wants to make the most of it. For the rest of the day, he will confront white people, in seemingly innocent situations, and treat them with the same kind of skepticism and quick rise to violence that black people know all too well.
Smartly, this part of the movie only makes up the second act of the film – there is only so far that Bowles can take it, before it becomes repetitive. It’s telling, and smart, that Bowles gets the white people confronted by Black Cop react the same way – perhaps even more so – in terms of aggression towards Black Cop, that have gotten black people killed when talking to police. There is running commentary in the form of a radio talk show that reminds us of those instances, so we see how similar these are. Bowles makes the easy point that after one day of one cop acting this way towards white people, everyone is on alert for this “rogue cop” – when in reality, this stuff goes on all the time.
If there is a problem with Black Cop, it’s that I don’t think Bowles really knows how to end this. After the movie moves on from him confronting white people, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere really to go. The movie had introduced a rookie cop – a young black woman – earlier in the film, and the film brings them together in the last act, but I’m not really sure the movie knows what to do with them. It’s okay that the movie keeps posing questions, without answers – but the last act suffers a little from going in circles.
Still, Black Cop is a timely and provocative film – that really should be seen and discussed. From a young, debut filmmakers Bowles has certainly made a film that will leave its mark. I hope next time, he’s able to bring everything together a little better in the final act.

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