Line of Duty,
and a few films

#218  [archive]
NOV. 17, 2023

Line of Duty
(debut episode; 2012)

Police are completely out of control. They can do anything to anyone for any reason, and unless there's enormous media attention, they'll almost certainly get away with it. If, for example, there hadn't been a cell phone recording and a teenager brave enough to post it online, you wouldn't know who George Floyd was. He would've been just another black guy killed by cops.

So when I'm not on this blog, I spend too much time on a copwatching page I started. A reader there recommended a British TV show I'd never heard of, Line of Duty, about good cops going after bad cops, and tonight I gave it a look-see, hoping for the best.

In this debut ep, the cops are executing a no-knock raid (which ought to be illegal), but they've — whoops — got the wrong apartment. As soon as they've blown the wrong door off its hinges, a young cop hyped on adrenaline shoots and kills the first person he sees.

A cop named Steve Arnott — code name 7156 — knows what happened, but his supervisor instructs all the cops to tell a story that's very different from what we've just seen:

"You got to the flat. You shouted 'Armed police!' You heard something going on inside, a struggle, a fight or something. 7156 gave you the order to go in. The suspect's there. He's acting aggressive. You shout 'Surrender! Armed police!' The suspect doesn't comply. He comes for you. You've got no choice. ... I want those statements copper-plated by noon, got it?"

Arnott complains to his boss about the killing and cover-up, and the boss's response is: "You're finished."

And with that, less than ten minutes into the show, this story line is abandoned. The botched raid, killing, and subsequent cover-up are barely mentioned again. Instead, Arnott is transferred to the Anti-Corruption Squad (what Americans would call Internal Affairs).

Reality check: It is extremely unlikely in the extreme that a whistleblower cop isn't simply fired, so the show has already stretched credulity like a rubber band.

We're now shown a different cop, who interrupts his off-duty dinner date to run across the street and single-handedly stop a mugging. 

Reality check #2: Such cop heroics do happen in real life, but not nearly so often as you see on television and in the movies, and I am certainly not watching this show to see more cop worship, same as you see on every other cop show.

But wait — soon this good guy cop is being investigated for helping his mistress get away with drunk driving (which in England is called 'drink driving'), and also for 'laddering' (apparently a British term, for when an obviously guilty perp is smothered in multiple charges so as to inflate the conviction rates, while crimes that look like they'd be harder to solve are quietly cold-cased).

That's police corruption too, albeit less flashy, and it's a clever way to show it — introduce a cop everyone wants to believe in, a hero to the rescue, and then pull back to reveal that he's not such a great cop after all. At this point, Line of Duty earned my respect.

I would've liked to see that bad cop arrested, but this is a 'continuing saga' type of show — it ends before there's a resolution.

Do they get the bad cop in next week's show? Is it a season-long story arc, and he'll be arrested in the last episode? Or will it be realistic enough that this corrupt cop, like 99% of them, gets away with it?

I won't be back to find out, sorry, because the show got on my nerves artistically. Everything is shown as super-serious melodrama, and filmed with hand-held cameras, a technique I hate. The lead actor, Martin Compston as Steve 7156 Arnott, looks too young, incredulous, and he's always oh-so-serious. And he only becomes determined to go after the bad cop because the target or one of his buddy cops left a turd in Arnott's car.

Also, it's awful enough that I know American cop lingo from so many shitty US TV shows and movies. I ain't learning British cop lingo — "I've noticed an upsurge in Class A detections on the bog" — just to keep up with what seems to be a soap opera about bad cops.

That said, Line of Duty is a good prime time TV drama, and any show that presents police as less than virtuous is a major breakthrough. I've seen enough, but everyone else should watch this show.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Big Brown Eyes (1936)

This is a quick-patter flick, snappy wisecracks and quick retorts, that's sorta centered around a busy barber shop that's also an ice cream parlor. Cary Grant stars, but never gets a haircut and only once a sundae.

He's a cop, pursuing mobsters when he's on duty, and after hours chasing a tough-talking quick-patter manicurist/newspaper reporter (Joan Bennett) who works in the clip-and-banana-split joint.

Mismatched with the quick-patter light comedy, the mobsters include a hothead with a gun who accidentally kills a baby in its carriage. The baby's mother screams in horror, and then immediately the movie's quick-patter and wisecracks resume.

So it's an odd hybrid — cops and mobsters, laughs and another murder — but the mobster part isn't convincing, and the comedy part usually falls flat.

And I'm as much a Cary Grant fan as anyone, but Grant as a cop simply doesn't work.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Man Who Thought Life (1969) 

There's this guy called Steinmetz walking across a bridge, stopping all the other pedestrians to show them the mouse he's carrying. "Can you see the mouse?" he asks everyone, and of course they can see the mouse, so the cops are called and Steinmetz gets taken to a mental ward.

He's not quite crazy, but he has a wondrous ability to create stuff with his mind — he created that mouse. Locked in a cell, when he thinks about it hard enough, he conjures up the key.

He's dissatisfied with such easy tricks, though. What Steinmetz really wants to do is conjure up something more impressive than a mouse. He wants to create a human.

And that's enough synopsis. If it sounds intriguing, you will enjoy this. If it sounds silly, it's not for you.

Sumptuously photographed in living black-and-white, this is intelligent science fiction — the kind that doesn't need ray guns and space ships. It has a sense of humor, sprinkling a few laughs to lighten the tension in what's otherwise increasingly a terror.

Bring your mind, because you'll need it to keep up, and bring your reading glasses, because it's in Danish subtitled into English.

Verdict: YES.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

The Internet's Own Boy (2014)
Nothing But a Man (1964)
Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)
Romper Stomper (1992)
Room Service (1938)
Who Farted? (2019)

... plus occasional 
schlock and surprises 

• • • But wait, there's more  • • •

Alexander Nevsky (1938)
Brainwaves (1983)
Cellular (2004) 
The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985)
The Day My Parents Became Cool (2009)
The Decline of Western Civilization (1980)
Downsizing (2017)
Frankenhooker (1990)
Hugo (2011)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
Love Happy (1950)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
The Man with Nine Lives (1940)
Phone Booth (2002)
PickAxe (1999)
Poison (1990)
Revelations (1993)
Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)
Saved! (2004)
Scared to Death (1947)
Secret Weapons (1985)
The Shooting (1966)
The Soloist (2009)
The Train (1964)
Welcome to New Orleans (2006)
Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. My brother, thanks so much for reviewing Get Shorty yesterday. I know it's a painful thing for you to do and I appreciate it very much. I only hope it brought back wonderful memories of Stephanie who evidently had great taste in movies and husbands. Again, thanks.

    with love,


    1. There are a hundred movies I saw with her, and we talked about them at length, so I'd rather not see them again for it would sadden me greatly, but Get Shorty isn't one of them. Pretty sure I've only seen it the once.

    2. Am I confusing this with Big Lebowski? No reason I should except they're both exceptional stories/comedies. I'm getting way too confused these days.


    3. Hey man, YOU'RE the Big Lebowski, man. I'm just... the Little Lebowski, all right? And you owe me a rug, man.

    4. Yeah, that must be it. Definitely can't see Big Lew; saw it with Steph at least a dozen times, so likely never again. But that's OK, there are a lot of other great movies and I intend to see them all.

    5. I believe the terms require that I pee on your rug first, before you get anything.

  2. You want a show about crooked cops try The Shield. Line of Duty sounds good to me, we are always on the lookout for good serial dramas and if a cop might get arrested that's my definitoon of good.

    1. Ah, I do remember watching The Shield for at least several seasons. Did the big bad bald cop ever get arrested?


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