Review by Sean Boelman
Aimee Long’s A Shot Through the Wall is the type of the film that would have set the internet on fire had it come out in 2020, and while it still addresses important issues, it’s ever so slightly less topical now and almost feels like a step back. It’s a morally complex movie, and clearly a product of its time, but there’s no way of knowing how well it is going to age.
The film follows an Asian-American police officer who finds himself at the center of controversy when he accidentally shoots an unarmed, innocent Black man. The situation which Long establishes is a lot less grey than many of the situations which have happened in real life, which almost invalidates what it is trying to say.
It’s very easy to misread what Long has made as copaganda, and while to an extent, it’s really hammering in the argument of “not all cops are bad”, it’s overall heart is in the right place. Unlike some of the other movies that have come out about the topic, the focus of this one is in calling out the broken system that caused these issues in the first place.
The first question that comes to mind is whether or not it is uncomfortable watching a film that hopes to make you sympathize with someone who has committed such a horrible accident, and the answer is absolutely. That said, this is a movie that is clearly meant to challenge the viewer, and so it accomplishes its goal in that regard.
Kenny Leu’s performance is a big part of what makes the film work. He plays it in a way that is subtle and not overbearing despite the fact that the script deals with some pretty intense stuff in an occasionally melodramatic way. Tzi Ma, Lynn Chen, and Fiona Fu are all good in the supporting cast, even if their roles are small.
This is the type of movie that knows exactly why it exists, so it accomplishes its point and calls it a day. It clocks in at only ninety minutes, and while there are a lot of time jumps in the film, and yet it hits all of the essential emotional beats. And the ending feels perfectly timed, a very natural conclusion to everything that came before.
It’s definitely clear that this is a lower-budget independent production, but it doesn’t really need to be particularly flashy. It’s a talky, intimate drama, and so it makes sense that all of the technical aspects like the score and cinematography would be done in a less noticeable and potentially distracting way as to have the audience focusing in on the right place.
A Shot Through the Wall is interesting in how it examines the topic at its core, but in trying to provoke thought, it ends up also being slightly misguided. It’s not the absolute misfire that a movie with this premise should have been, but it’s not without its flaws.
A Shot Through Wall hits theaters and VOD on January 20.