Judge Gordon Sullivan wants to see a "good cop turned mediocre" movie.
No one is above the law.
Western culture loves conflict and it loves redemption. If you can combine the two, so much the better. One of the arenas that often combines these two facets is the police drama. It gives viewers the opportunity to see that police officers are regular people who make bad decisions while also giving viewers the opportunity to see someone strive for redemption. Officer Down goes down this well-trodden path, but thanks to some excellent performances and assured direction, it avoids most of the pitfalls along the way.
Detective David Callahan (Stephen Dorff, Blade) was shot during a drug deal that soured. He's rehabilitating himself, working on reconnecting with this wife and daughter. He needs to work extra hard because he was shot while involved with shady business practices outside his duties as a police officer and his involvement with the owner of a strip club. One day a man appears claiming to be the guy who saved Callahan's life after the shooting; he wants Callahan's help to rescue a young woman from even more shady dealings at the strip club. Callahan must risk old temptations to repay the debt he owes.
If you've seen more than a handful of cop movies, then Officer Down is going to sound awfully familiar. The "cop with a dirty past" and "cop in need of redemption" narratives are the bread and butter of cop dramas. Officer Down, however, seems to know this and shies away from the mistakes that other dirty cop movies make. First, it doesn't try to tell a somber, gritty story about the rise and fall of a dirty cop. Instead, it moves the narrative around, jumping through time to keep the audience on its toes. Though many viewers can guess where the film is headed at any given moment, the journey getting there is filled with enough surprises to make watching worthwhile. The film doesn't succumb to the opposite problem either; it's not mindless action in search of characters. Instead, these people feel like actual individuals with histories and emotions. It's a fine balance to strike, and Officer Down handles it better than most.
Much of the success is due to the film's superb cast. Stephen Dorff anchors everything. He could probably sleep his way through a role like this but instead shows up engaged, offering a surprisingly subtle depiction of his character's strengths and weaknesses. Walton Goggins is a go-to guy for scruffy bad guys, and he acquits himself nicely here. It's also good to see David Boreanaz take a step away from his role on Bones, even if he is playing another law enforcement agent. James Woods plays the commanding officer with a world-weary edge. Finally, Elizabeth Rohm (who last worked with David Boreanaz on Angel) is perfect as Callahan's wife, supportive without being a doormat for her husband and his shaky past.
This Blu-ray disc does a fine job of supporting the film's intended presentation. The 2.40:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer does a fine job with the shot-on-HD look of the flick. The brighter scenes are filled with gorgeous detail and well-saturated colors. Darker scenes look merely okay, but that's probably as much to do with the budget constraints of the source than this transfer in particular. Digital artifacts are luckily not a problem. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track keeps dialogue clearly audible, and the surrounds show up frequently, especially during action scenes.
Extras, however, are where this release falters. There's not even a trailer for the film included. When you've assembled such a high-quality cast it's a shame to not let them strut a little in a featurette. I also get the sense from following IMDb links that these are the most high-profile actors the writer and director have worked with. It would have been great to hear from them about the process in a featurette or commentary. Sadly, that's not the case.
The film is obviously not for those who hate cop dramas. It's also not for those looking for something entirely new from their police films. Though I think Officer Down handles its subject better than most cop films (especially those that go straight to video) it still doesn't offer much new. Also, though I love the cast of Officer Down, I'd really like to see a bit more casting against type. The film does a fine job with David Boreanaz, but I'd like to see Walter Goggins do a bit of stretching.
Officer Down doesn't reinvent the dirty cop drama. It does, however, play as a better-than-average take on thin blue line redemption. Fans of police dramas, action-mystery hybrids, or any of the actors should take note of Officer Down. Though the total lack of extras makes it hard to recommend for purchase, a rental will disappoint few.
Guilty of lacking extras, but otherwise innocent.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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