If you like action, there’s an increasing case to be made for Signature Entertainment, a London-based company who aim to master the dark art of UK cinema distribution; they’ve got an eye for a good pick-up. The Candidate, Kursk: The Last Mission, The Captor, Night Hunter and The Courier all provided a welcome respite from superhero shenanigans in 2019, and their first release of 2020 first-foots the new decade with a pretty enjoyable package for genre fans.
In The Line of Duty is a decidedly hokey but relish-able police thriller starring Aaron Eckhart, and the premise has lots of ludicrous scope; a high-energy opening sees beat-cop Frank Penny tracking down a Perils of Pauline-inspired killer who has kidnapped the chief of police’s daughter and placed her in a water-tank which is slowly filling up while a video-camera captures the action. Fortunately, Penny has about an hour to find the girl, but unfortunately, he’s forced to kill the kidnapper; there’s echoes of British classic Tomorrow at Ten in this scenario. Another antagonist arrives in the form of the kidnapper’s brother, bent on revenge, and Penny has to fight his way out in real time to save the girl, accompanied by feisty teenage news gatherer Ava (Courtney Eaton).
‘The clock is tricking. The world is watching.’ is the tagline here, another sign that Steven C Miller’s film, like last month’s The Courier, having another crack at the ‘real time’ mother lode that action film-makers have aspired to since the failure of John Badham’s Nick of Time. Jeffrey Drysdale’s film wrestles with the usual problem; characters standing in the middle of streets discussing plot points while cars and buildings explore around them. And yet Eckhart is a compellingly intense cop, the foot-chases and car stunts have a verve that recalls genre classics like Point Break, and even the ‘now’ sub-plot about women in media doesn’t impede the slam-bang feel of the narrative. ‘This is like Call of Duty’ one character observes, and Miller’s film feels like a video-game in a good way; colourful, vigorous and satisfying.
In The Line of Duty isn’t likely to trouble Academy voters; the examination of women/millennials in the media is facile and takes up valuable time that could be spend watching Eckhart smashing heads through windscreens or watching SUVs fly fifty feet in the air. In The Line of Duty revives some old-school, tough cop fun and delivers it with some gusto; if you’re tired with men in spandex, Miller’s film signs off with some style.
Signature Entertainment presents In the Line of Duty in Cinemas and on Digital HD from 3 January 2020