National Post (Latest Edition)
Adrift, an extreme adventure tale that’s worth four stars.
“We all look the same,” says the unnamed black cop in Black Cop. And when the person he’s talking to starts to object, he clarifies by adding: “Cops.”
Admit it: You weren’t thinking “cops” either. Ronnie Rowe describes his character as a “negro officer,” “African-American law enforcement agent,” “minority popo,” and a few others I won’t repeat. He spends one tense and unpleasant scene (out of uniform) being harassed by white cops, and the rest of the movie doing unto others. White others.
Writer/director Cory Bowles (a.k.a. Cory from Trailer Park Boys) has expanded his own 11-minute short from 2016 into a smart, slippery examination of race and policing that was shot in Halifax, though the city is never named, and the setting could, sadly, be just about anywhere in Canada or the States.
The fractured narrative includes footage from bodycams, vehicle-mounted cameras, cellphones (in portrait mode, naturally) and traditional coverage. Rowe’s character sometimes addresses the camera or talks back to a call-in radio show that is discussing a police shooting of a black man. Though it’s clear that at least some of time he’s talking to himself, and possibly losing his grip on reality.
Most of the film’s 91 minutes follow him as he starts abusing his power in ways we’ve come to expect only white officers to do. (And yes, that assumption is supposed to make you feel queasy and complicit.) He stops a white guy jogging through an affluent neighbourhood in a hoodie; the man says he’s a doctor but has no ID. He pulls over an SUV that was barely speeding, and follows a kid who says he’s on his way to school. In every case he lets the situation get way out of control.
The drama is helped by the fact that we’re forced to identify with the character; he’s onscreen the whole time, and freely admits in the early going that he’s been known to abuse his cop perks. Plus he has to live with a double daily dose of racism; the “normal” kind, plus the anger directed at him for “selling out” by joining the force.
Does it excuse, or at least explain, what happens in the film? Bowles isn’t saying. That’s up to you. Black Cop is a real conversation starter. Black Cop opens June 1 for three nights in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver; on iTunes starting June 5; and on demand from June 19.