With American films pretty much AWOL in 2020, the world faces a break from our constant consumption of USA-centred material. That’s not to say that issues of law and order aren’t under consideration; it’ll be up to November’s voters to decide whether lawlessness on the streets and lawless government are connected. When Joel Souza’s hard-hitting cop movie was released in the States in December last year (under the title Crown Vic), the fissures of urban society weren’t quite so obvious; in 2020, the images of police brutality featured here seem very much familiar from the on-going news cycle.
Bulletproof has a similar feel to David Ayer’s End of Watch, which itself seemed to reach back to Training Day; we’re talking about a rookie beat cop Nick Holland (Luke Kleintank) who is assigned to share a Olympic Division Crown Vic Interceptor with seasoned pro Ray Mandel (Thomas Jane). Ray knows the ropes, and then some; he’s been on the job for decades, and as spent more time cruising the streets in his car than at any address. Nick as a wife and a daughter on the way, so the stakes are high, and the question is which of the two men will make it home, and what state will they be in, physically and morally?
Probably worth the title change, if only to engender fresh conversation post George Floyd, Bulletproof goes straight for the jugular by featuring a plot line in which Nick and Ray are involved in a cover-up of police brutality after the wrongful death of a black suspect. In retrospect, they missed a trick on not doubling down on this, but such serious matters are only part of the consideration of ‘who guards the guards?’ And Bulletproof does a proficient job of showing how good men struggle to be good cops; Souza is sensitive to the idea of moral corruption, and also to the vulnerability for both the public and those who police them.
The draw here is Thomas Jane, always a great performer from Stander onwards and given lots to feed on as a grizzled, tough-as nails LAPD copper who has a downbeat take on domestic issues, and a get-things-done attitude that circumvents moral constrictions. Kleintank matches him for intensity, and there’s a particularly impressive performance from Josh Hopkins as Jack VanZandt, a wild-card who causes them no end of bother. Bridget Moynahan also registers in a small, telling role; the acting is all on point, and even through the film was made in Buffalo New York, the feel for the LA streets seems authentic.
I get that a consideration of police brutality may be the last place some will seek to look for entertainment right now, but Bulletproof is worth taking a look at, with propulsive music, gritty cinematography and pretty much all the key elements of an urban policier present and correct. With long wordy scenes and bursts of shocking action, I found Bulletproof engrossing and sickening in equal measures; audiences will self-select, but if you’re interested in the issues involved, Bulletproof delivers on a modern, undeniably relevant premise.
Signature Entertainment presents Bulletproof in the UK on Digital HD September 7th & on DVD September 14th 2020.