Satire is too flippant a word to describe Black Cop. It’s a protest movie.
Ronnie Rowe Jr. is the unnamed cop in the title, and the movie opens at a rally against police brutality, with people getting in his face, asking how he can betray his race by being a police officer. He is expressionless behind his dark sunglasses, but in a series of cutaway monologues, we see that he is torn. The first act explores this inner conflict and ends with an off-duty incident in which he is the victim of racial profiling by police officers who don’t realize he is one of them.
The tension builds within him until he starts lashing out, instigating a series of brutal incidents on unsuspecting citizens. This is where the movie shifts toward satire. It flips the script on police brutality, and we see a black cop arbitrarily stopping, searching and sometimes beating white people who seem to pose no threat at all. When he yells at a pregnant white woman to stop resisting, it’s not just terrifying and ridiculous in its own right. It’s also disturbing because it makes you realize the number of times you’ve seen news footage of a white police officer and black suspect in similar situations and perhaps didn’t think it was as obviously ridiculous. It’s impressive when a movie can make you question your own presumptions about such an important issue.
Black Cop is written and directed by Corey Bowles, perhaps best known as an actor from the comedy series Trailer Park Boys. This is an ambitious movie, and it’s well directed. With numerous scenes of the unnamed cop driving around the city in his patrol car, listening to his inner monologue while jazz plays in the background, it’s sometimes reminiscent of Taxi Driver. When he has his first violent outburst, it happens so unexpectedly and ends so suddenly, I thought maybe the movie was going all in on the satire. It felt like the 1992 Belgian movie Man Bites Dog, a dark but hilarious mockumentary about a serial killer.
But while the satirical elements grab our attention, Bowles never goes all in on the satire. Perhaps he thought the subject matter was too important to leave it up to the audience to figure out, and he may be right.
Bowles makes some narrative choices that not everyone will enjoy. He conveys the cop’s inner thoughts repeatedly and in a variety of ways. He has him talk directly into the camera in standalone monologues that might seem more fitting in a play. In one scene this monologue appears to be an on-camera interview with someone off-screen. There are also monologues where he appears to be a vaudeville entertainer, a boxer, and a performer at a concert. In another scenario, he has a discussion with another physical manifestation of himself sitting in the passenger seat of his patrol car. I think the most effective technique was having talk show hosts on the car radio discussing what was going on in his head.
The effect of all these monologue cutaways is that we are often being told and not shown. Perhaps the most intrusive monologue comes during the climactic scene in the movie. There is a moment of great tension unfolding on the screen when it cuts to another monologue, albeit a powerful one that sums up the message of the movie. It interrupts the normal flow of the narrative, but maybe that’s the point.
I have no doubt these are choices, not shortcomings. This movie has something to say about race and about the way people treat each other, and it makes no apologies for saying it.
|Starring||Ronnie Rowe Jr., Sophia Walker, Sebastien Labelle|
|Production||Blac Op Films|