tue 23/07/2024

In the Line of Duty review - brazen absurdity | reviews, news & interviews

In the Line of Duty review - brazen absurdity

In the Line of Duty review - brazen absurdity

Lazy, loopy entertainment as Aaron Eckhart races against time

Racing against the clock: Frank Penny (Aaron Eckhart) Signature Entertainment

The dinosaur credentials of disgraced cop Frank Penny (Aaron Eckhart) litter his flat, from his battered old TV to his binning of his daily newspaper, bar the sports section.

As he begins his beat, vlogger Ava Brooks (Courtney Eaton, pictured below) is blathering wokely about the mainstream media. The appearance of a pair of ruthless but remarkably stupid kidnappers results in Penny’s jaw-dropping decision to let her live-stream his hunt for the kidnap victim, due to drown in 63 minutes in an undisclosed location.

The film’s real-time rampage through those minutes is screamingly unconvincing, cartoonish action and choppy editing torpedoing the supposedly tense conceit. This is, though, the first odd couple buddy movie for snowflakes and rednecks, as reductive as those words about the worlds its characters represent, but carried by its actors. Eckhart announced himself with the truly toxic masculinity of Neil LaBute’s films, before descending to dumb action fodder in middle-age. He retains a raw-boned, intelligent machismo which lets him swagger knowingly through the film’s absurdities. Eaton has even less to work with, but does so with breezy conviction.

Courtney Eaton in In the Line of DutyDirector Stephen C. Miller too rattles the absurdities along with brazen vim, learned making the pulpy likes of Stallone’s Escape Plan 2. But where a real B-movie auteur such as Liam Neeson’s action guru Jaume Collet-Serra applies steel-trap logic to even the loopiest situations, Miller just lets it all hang out. Even a cop as stubbornly unschooled in the modern world as Penny would never let a journalist broadcast every step of his desperate search for the kidnappers’ hide-out, letting them change their plans accordingly. Luckily, lead villain Dean Keller (Ben McKenzie, pictured below) is more concerned with engaging platoons of police in open midtown warfare than criminal success. No one is unduly detained by authentic behaviour.

Miller instead moves from the melancholy of Penny’s barren home life to open parody, as the duel with Keller becomes outlandishly extreme, smashing through plate-glass and suicidally diving from great heights, hanging from helicopters and reviving from near-fatal drowning. “It’s like Call o’ Duty,” Penny mutters. The girl who Keller has trapped in a flooding chamber is largely forgotten. The claustrophobic similar scenario in Tarantino’s CSI episode, like the rigorous ticking clock of previous real-time films, requires consistent effort unavailable here. Only the unusual setting of Birmingham, Alabama, its notorious racist past here replaced by a tourist board-friendly, prosperously high-rise and multi-racial present, lends freshness to Miller’s swooping camera.

Ben McKenzie in In the Line of DutyKeller’s back-story of a sister lost to police department sloth when his meth lab exploded gains pathos in McKenzie’s telling (the actor has done more introspective work as Gotham’s Jim Gordon), which wholly evaporates in retrospect. Quite what we’re supposed to think about anyone is unclear from Jeremy Drysdale’s script. Brooks’ fellow vlogger Clover (Jessica Lu) spouts teeth-grating clichés about “sheeple” amidst antivac advice, and both resemble real millennials as much as the groovy hippies conjured by middle-aged 1960s filmmakers. The Birmingham police are nobly heroic, if hapless, and Brooks learns more from her unreconstructed partner than he does from her. For a film as full of holes as its bullet-riddled scenery and supporting cast, it’s all cheerfully entertaining.


No one is unduly detained by authentic behaviour


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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