PLOT: Idealistic rookie cop Officer Gable (Tyler Ross) is put on a special LAPD task force: the clean-up crew for unstoppable juggernaut Officer Terry Downe (Kim Coates). After Downe was killed in an accident 25 years ago, the LAPD has found a way to keep resurrecting him in pursuit of justice during a massive crime wave. Gable’s by-the-book morals clash with Downe’s itchy trigger finger and general badassery as they battle criminals including gun-toting nuns and an English-dubbed zen master in ski pants.
REVIEW: If you’ve ever found yourself in a sufficiently dark mental state to wonder what a comic book movie directed by a member of the band Slipknot would look like, wonder no more! OFFICER DOWNE is here to help, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
OFFICER DOWNE tries very hard to be a lot of things: A jingoistic pro-police procedural, a goofy comic book extravaganza, a quippy, red-blooded action flick, a Troma film, and whatever else happens to pop into its fevered little head. It fails at almost all of these things, but what it gets right is good enough to make me at least a little conflicted about disliking it.
First off, OFFICER DOWNE is one of very few modern comic films to actively attempt to create the sense that you’re seeing a comic book come to life before your eyes. In addition to some fun onscreen text that reads like a pornographic SCOTT PILGRIM, OFFICER DOWNE has a bold cotton candy color scheme of yellow, cyan, and magenta, hearkening back to the golden age comics of yore. Plus I’ll never fail to be won over by deranged, over-the-top elements like the severed cop heads that decorate the villains’ lair.
These comic-booky overtones also open the door to a whole heap of meta humor, allowing OFFICER DOWNE to play with its own structure in a way that’s far smarter than it has any right to be. Most of this type of humor falls on the head of the mystical Zenmaster Flash, a villain who seems completely aware at all times that he’s just a character in a movie, playing with subtitles and dubbing in a way that seems at least mildly fresh after the decades of dubbing jokes that followed the kung fu movie boom.
All of that tells me that there is a brain buried deep inside OFFICER DOWNE, no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary. That’s reassuring, because there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. When you’re learning to analyze a film, there are certain questions so simple they hardly even think to teach them to you. Questions like “Who is the protagonist?” or “What is the conflict?” OFFICER DOWNE offers no easy answers, because its script is a hailstorm of random violence, chaos, and didactic monologues about justice that completely forgets it’s supposed to be telling a coherent story.
The poor actors are left to wander through a barren wasteland of shattered character arcs and gaping plot holes, so I don’t blame anybody for giving a less-than great performance, which is almost exclusively what we get. The only performer with any screen presence at all is Kim Coates, who’s hilariously stoic in a role that, in an alternate universe, could easily have been given to Tom Atkins.
One area where OFFICER DOWNE completely misses the mark is its action movie aspirations. Shot like a metal video on amphetamines (which makes sense, I suppose), most of the titular cop’s ass-kicking is completely illegible. The frantic fight scenes throw way too much information on the screen at speeds too fast for the human brain to comprehend, and the chaotic editing accidentally slips backward and forward in time more than Marty McFly. It all forms into one brain-numbing mush of manic desperation peppered with some truly bottom-of-the-barrel action hero quips that spit on the legacy of the great Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hell, even Jack Frost would be a little embarrassed to hear the duds Downe is spitting.
All this makes it very difficult for me to recommend OFFICER DOWNE. It’s a deeply messy movie with a handful of fun, fearless elements and a lot of energy. It’s up to you to decide if that sounds like enough. Although it is very violent if you’re into that, and I bet you are.