Review – What’s Black & Blue & Red All Over? (“Black and Blue”)

Body cams on cops. Sound like a good idea, right? But what would happen if a cop captured on their body cam something they really shouldn’t have? You get Training Day, Serpico, CopLand, and The Fugitive all rolled into one and shot on location in the Big Easy – New Orleans.

Gung-ho rookie cops; ya gotta love ’em. New on the New Orleans Police Dept. is Alicia West (Naomi Harris) who’s partnered-up with family man Kevin (Reid Scott). But their route is the nasty Kensington beat, home of some the roughest neighborhoods and gangs around. It’s also Alicia’s old stomping grounds where she grew up. Can you say, “Awkward”?

Anyway, while pulling a double-shift, she’s partnered with seasoned Deacon Brown (James Moses Black) who has a secret: he’s in cahoots with evil narc Terry Malone (Frank Grillo) and his crummy little toadie (Beau Knapp) who are dealing drugs behind the back of local crime lord, Darius (Mike Coulter).

As bad luck would have it, Alicia accidentally videos a double homicide by Malone on her body cam, gets shot, and the chase is on! Malone, telling everyone that SHE is the killer, puts a target on Alicia’s back, not only with fellow cops, but by Darius and his henchmen. Desperate, bleeding, on the run, and no where else to go, she turns to her only friend, Miles “Mouse” Jackson (Tyrese Gibson), who owns a local supermarket. But  her buddy Kevin will help her out and get that incriminating body cam footage to the right authorities, right? Uh-oh!!

As Malone and the police are slowly closing in, Alicia tries a tricky move: go to dangerous Darius to prove her innocence, but will her plan back-fire? Will that body cam footage ever get to the right people? And how is it Malone can walk away from a severe rebar thrashing? Peter A. Dowling (Flight Plan, Reasonable Doubt) has written a perfectly clichéd and plot-hole riddled vehicle for Harris, who might as well be a superhero for all the punishment she survives and keeps going. And Grillo looks and acts about as comic-book villainous as anyone ever.

Thankfully, Harris rises above the fluff ‘n’ stuff and gives a strong performance despite the trite, superficial plot that is filled with (justifiable) angry messages about hate, racism, bigotry, and what it means to be black in a depressed neighborhood that has been shuttered away from white society. No message could be clearer than from the words of the characters in this film. Dowling made sure the people of New Orleans had their voice.

The same can be said for director Deon Taylor (Traffik, The Intruder) who captures this movie in stark dull colors and drab, flat video. His urgency is expressed through the lens and spills out on the screen, sometimes in strange off-putting ways. In one scene, he shows Darius like an angry lion about to pounce, which is quite unsettling. Even the musical scoring is odd; sounding like something from a sci-fi movie. Yes, you’ve seen this kind of movie before, but it’s nice to give it a fresh coat of paint every now and then.

Cop Land (1997)

What happens when you wanna break your stereotype character? You pack on 40lbs and make an indie movie! Well, that’s what Sylvester Stallone did with Cop Land, a gritty film from Miramax featuring a host of other A-listers that took everyone by surprise. Thank writer/director James Mangold for this little gem.

It sucks to be Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Stallone). He’s the local sheriff of Garrison, New Jersey, a small community that’s home to quite of few of NYPD’s finest. Oh sure, HE could have been an NYPD blue, if not for his one deaf ear, but this is his life now. Meanwhile, there’s a drama being played out on the George Washington Bridge: young Murray “Superboy” Babitch (Michael Rapaport) has killed two drunk black teens thinking they had a gun. But cops stick together and his uncle, Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel), decides to “fix” the problem by having Murray commit a fake suicide. Well, that was easy, right?

Over in Garrison, while Murray is in hiding, we find out that Ray pretty much owns the town, since he secured illegal home loans for all his cop pals with the mob. Illegal? Sure! But who’s gonna prove it? Enter intrepid Internal Affairs investigator Lt. Moe Tilden (Robert DeNiro) who is trying to nail these guys, and this latest incident has him scrounging for anything he can, so he goes to passive Freddy for information, but the sheriff is just to intimated to do anything that brave. Drat! The only ally Freddy has in town is a disgruntled cop named Gary Figgis (Ray Liotta) who can’t stand Ray and his crooked pals.

With pressure in NY mounting over the bridge incident, Ray decides Murray will really have to die, but the fleet-footed cop runs away and tries to get Freddy to save him. Ray and his band of nasty cohorts pull rank (and guns) on Freddy, warning him not to interfere, but the sheriff finally has a breaking point and that comes in the act three finale shoot-out in near silence. Cool! Written & directed by James Mangold (Logan, 3:10 To Yuma), this is just a terrific little film with one helluva cast. Sneaking under the radar, it crackles with intrigue and inner turmoil, pulling out some outstanding performances from the cast.

Stallone, overweight and playing against type, is excellent and resonates with emotions not seen in any of his other films, while Liotta electrifies the screen. Then you got powerhouses like DeNiro, Keitel, Robert Patrick, John Spencer, and Cathy Moriarty to round out the cast. Wow! Ya think that would be enough, but the script is just as ambitious and that good. Wrapped inside a ‘cops vs cops’ story is a crime to be solved AND the struggling human side of the sheriff who, surprisingly, isn’t the main plot. Mangold delivers on both sides with excellence, showcasing Stallone and Liotta in their prime.

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