3 February 2017



I don't normally go in for police dramas and suchlike (too many guns!), but this is a high-quality example of the genre that is getting a welcome re-release at the moment courtesy of the British Film Institute. The LOS ANGELES TIMES have described the film as 'a vigorous, hungry piece of work' and VARIETY calls it 'a powerful moral drama.' Intrigued, much? Read on, dear readers, read on...

It's basically the story of two rookie police officers who uncover a rather naughty conspiracy in the police department in which they're trying to carve out a career for themselves. JJ Johnson is the only black deputy in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

He's finding himself clashing with his white colleagues but, in particular, with his white superior officers, who seem to pick holes in everything he does. He just wants to do his job but it looks like his progress is being somewhat barred by the big bosses down at the station.

His only friend in the department is another rookie cop like himself, but with an 'affliction' even worse than being black. Yeah, you guessed it, she's a woman, haha. I wouldn't say that the two of them are pariahs exactly, but they're definitely being treated like second-class citizens compared to the members of the Good Ol' Boys White Man's Club in which they find themselves working and struggling.

Lori Petty, probably best known for playing TANK GIRL in 1995, is newbie cop Deborah Fields, JJ's only friend and ally on the force. With her crewcut dark hair, huge eyes and red lipstick, she's gorgeous in a Lisa Stansfield ('Eighties singer) kind of way, but she gets treated like dirt by her bosses, to whom sexism seemingly comes as naturally as the racism with with they view JJ.

Maybe if Deborah had long blonde hair and huge boobs, she'd have garnered more attention from her superiors, but then again they'd probably have made her life an utter misery with their catcalls and whistles, innuendos and dirty jokes, groping and fondling. Sexual harassment, in other words. She seems to be screwed either way, no pun intended, on account of her sex.

Anyway, one fateful day while our two pals are out on patrol, a well-off, middle-aged white woman is shot to death in her car while her husband watches. The husband, played by brilliant FRIENDS actor Elliott Gould, claims that 'a black man' is the person whodunnit.

Coincidentally enough, a black man called Teddy Woods is in custody thanks to JJ and his white colleague Deputy Bono. He's charged with being in possession of a stolen gun, which he freely admits. He denies vehemently being the man who shot dead the white woman, however. At the time of the shooting, Teddy was taking his girlfriend to the movies.

But the powers-that-be need a scapegoat for the crime. This handy scapegoat in the form of Teddy Woods is now in custody awaiting trial for a crime that brings with it the death penalty if he's found guilty. JJ and Deborah find it impossible not to smell the sickly-sweet, rotten stench of corruption in high places.

But what the hell can two of the lowliest worms in the food chain that is the Los Angeles Police Department do to re-dress the balance of justice? If Teddy's convicted, he could be put to death. Will JJ and Deborah risk their fragile careers- and even their lives- for the sake of the truth...?

My favourite performance in the film is from Ice Cube, who plays the accused Teddy Woods. Ice Cube, of course, is a famous American rapper, songwriter, record producer, actor and film-maker with an extensive discography and filmography, plus he's super-cute, too.

He plays Teddy Woods with the understated resignation of a man who understands all too well what it's like to be picked on and victimised for being black. 'My skin is my sin,' he says quietly and calmly to the corrupt police officers who are trying to get him to confess to the shooting, and it rings so true in the ears of the viewers.

We know perfectly well what the cops are trying to do, and we don't want Teddy to be the victim of an obvious miscarriage of justice. Ice Cube is perfect in the role. He really gets the point across that he's just an insignificant small fry to the cops and is therefore easily expendable. 

What does it matter if a black man dies, so long as the police are seen to get their man? I hate to say this, but the film kind of makes you wonder how many similar miscarriages of justice have actually happened before in places like this...?

The cops don't really come across too well in the film. The way they treat the one woman and the sole black man in their department makes one wonder how they would react to the presence of, say, a gay female or a man in a wheelchair in their exalted midst? About the same, I'd say, according to the truly shocking shenanigans in THE GLASS SHIELD that go all the way to City Hall...

The film, as I said earlier, is getting a new lease of life at the moment thanks to the British Film Institute. Following the BFI's current BLACK STAR season, it's been out in a rather snazzy Dual Format Edition (Blu-Ray and DVD) since 23rd January 2017. 

The film's got racial prejudice, racial tensions and other bigotries (plus some truly fine manly cop moustaches!) up the ying-yang. It's worth watching to see if truth and justice will prevail...

BFI releases are available from all good home entertainment retailers or by mail order from the BFI Shop. Tel: 020 7815 1350 or online at www.bfi.org.uk/shop


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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