Review by Sean Boelman
The police force in the United States has come under intense scrutiny in recent years, and for good reason, but the police force in Latin American countries has been an even louder problem for years at this point. Mexican filmmaker Alonso Ruizpalacios has delivered one of the most effective skewers of the system with A Cop Movie, his enormously ambitious blend of narrative and documentary elements.
The film follows two police officers who join the force only to find themselves disillusioned with the system and sharing a common and unexpected bond. This isn’t the type of movie that lends itself easily to explanation, as there are so many layers to it that simply demand to be discovered by the viewer.
As he peels back layer after layer, both of the film’s story and the police in Mexico, Ruizpalacios creates a movie that is not only thought-provoking and formally daring, but also surprisingly interesting. Thanks to the impressive storytelling on display, it is easy to get drawn into this fantasy that quickly comes crashing down.
Obviously, there is a lot to be said in the film about the corruption in Mexican law enforcement (and ultimately, in law enforcement on a global scale). It’s a massive issue, and yet Ruizpalacios tackles it in a way that is satirically funny yet also terrifying at the same time, showing the horrors that come along with this level of unchecked authority.
However, there is another side to this movie, and that is the role of police in popular culture. For years, people have used stories of police action for entertainment (even this writer is guilty of it), and Ruizpalacios uses his film as a deconstruction of the genre of procedural movies that has created an inaccurate perception of law enforcement.
Ruizpalacios connects the audience to the story by using these two central characters in a really compelling way. By establishing the romance between them, the film creates some very effective emotional stakes that make the message more impactful. Raúl Brontes and Mónica Del Carmen do an excellent job of bringing these characters to life.
This is also one of the most stylistically unique movies in recent memory, made especially impressive by the fact that it has the substance to back it up. Beyond the way in which he combines different modes of filmmaking, Ruizpalacios’s film works because it is slick and stylish like the average cop movie, with quick editing, flashy cinematography, and a fun soundtrack and score to top it off.
A Cop Movie is a mind-blowing film in every sense of the word, proving Alonso Ruizpalacios to have a truly unique voice. The unorthodox structure will hopefully allow this to get the attention it deserves and make its message heard.
A Cop Movie is now screening as a part of the Berlinale Industry Event, running virtually from March 1-5, 2021.