Thursday, November 14, 2019

Line of Duty

There is nothing the media enjoys more than tearing down police officers. An internet wannabe like Ava Brooks hardly qualifies as media, but she certainly shares all their biases. However, she will learn just how dangerous it can be to serve as a uniformed officer in Steven C. Miller’s Line of Duty, which opens tomorrow in New York.

Officer Frank Penny was officially cleared of wrong-doing in a prior shooting incident, but his career has still suffered. He really was blameless, but he remains wracked with guilt, due to the acutely agonizing circumstances. He walks a beat these days, fatefully putting him in the perfect place to intercept a fleeing kidnaping suspect.

Unfortunately, Penny is forced to shoot the perp before he can disclose any information on the victim’s whereabouts. Awkwardly, she happens to be the daughter of the police chief. As a further complication, Brooks captures the entire shooting on her live-cast, as well as Penny’s subsequent dressing down. Of course, he goes rogue to rescue the young girl and she does her best to keep up with him, until things start getting violently real. Soon, the odd couple realizes they will have to work together to save the victim and stay alive.

If Line of Duty had been released during the peak of premium cable movie channels, it would have been a mainstay that we would have frequently re-watched. It is no classic, but it is slick, professional, generally reassuring, and highly watchable. Frankly, it is enormously refreshing just to see such a positive portrayal of a police office on-screen. Penny is no superhero, but Aaron Eckhart’s lead performance and Jeremy Drysdale’s screenplay cast him in an acutely human light that actually makes him more sympathetic than an unrealistically perfect action hero.

Indeed, Eckhart is suitably intense, largely carrying the film single-handedly as Penny. In contrast, Courtenay Eaton is mostly rather colorless and nondescript as the shallow Brooks. Even more problematic, Ben McKenzie totally underwhelms as Dean Keller, the forgettable and insufficiently sinister white trash super-villain. However, Giancarlo Esposito adds some energy and edge as Volk, the police chief.

Line of Fire is the sort of contemporary B-movie that doesn’t even expect you to see it in theaters, but it is definitely worth checking out on Netflix or Prime (presumably in the very near future). It definitely gives viewers a visceral sense of the danger cops face on the streets and the pressures they feel from society. Miller’s pacing is brisk and Echkart is genuinely compelling, but the lack of a strong bad guy is a notable drawback. Recommended as an eventual streaming candidate, Line of Duty opens tomorrow (11/15) in New York, at the Cinema Village.