Black Cop is an aesthetically beautiful and achingly relevant examination of race, power, justice, and responsibility.
Written and directed by Cory Bowles (probably best known for portraying the Cory, half of “Trevor and Cory” on Trailer Park Boys), the film stars Ronnie Rowe (Warehouse 13, The Expanse), who delivers an electric and irresistible performance as the titular “black cop”. Rowe’s character is tough, used to being seen as a traitor by other black folks and gritting his teeth against the racism and bigotry of his white co-workers. The opening scene has him casually chewing gum and smiling to himself while standing off against a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters – this is not a man who is easily shaken. That is, until he finds himself on the other side of racial profiling and the rage inside him reaches a boiling point. He then turns the tables of brutality, lashing out at the white community.
Black Cop is beautifully shot, making the most of its Halifax setting with long, meditative shots of both affluent and poorer areas of the city. I was strongly reminded of the years I spent living in the rougher areas of St. John’s – a feeling of desperation and dilapidation by no means unique to the Atlantic provinces but powerfully invoked by the peeling paint of once-colourful row houses. Much of the film reads as poetry, from the protagonist’s spoken-word monologues about his experiences with racism and reasons for deciding to become a police officer, to the varied viewpoints and perspectives provided by the cinematography which combines traditional footage with shots that are reminiscent of cellphone videos, dashcams, and footage from security cameras.
Another major achievement of the film is the soundtrack. The music has been curated to near perfection by Dillon Baldassero, and features a potent mix of soul, hip hop, and jazz.
The thematic message of the film, “if you aren’t part of the solution, then you are part of the problem”, is direct but never over-simplified. Black Cop’s particular strength is that it isn’t afraid to explore the nuances of human behavior even as its content is aggressively political. The protagonist himself admits that he isn’t a good person, that his solutions are not the best solutions, but he remains sympathetic. We understand the things he does and the rage that compels his actions.
A deeply thoughtful film, Black Cop should be required viewing for white audiences and people of colour alike.
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