Review: Line of Duty

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

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PLOT: A disgraced beat cop (Aaron Eckhart) races against time to find the missing daughter of the police chief (Giancarlo Esposito) but has to tangle with a pesky journalist (Courtney Eaton) bent on documenting his efforts, even as they’re both hunted by a heavily armed psychopath (Ben McKenzie).

REVIEW: LINE OF DUTY is one of the better small-scaled action flicks to come out in recent memory. Had this been made a decade or so ago, it would have no doubt been picked up for a mainstream theatrical release, although the way the market has changed means nowadays it's more likely to be seen on the small screen at home. Nevertheless, this is a rock-solid programmer with a strong, heroic part for star Aaron Eckhart.

Taking place almost in real-time, this follows Eckhart’s veteran cop as he toils away on his beat, where his affable good nature has won him friends despite the skeletons in his closet. Trouble runs right smack dab into him when the suspect fleeing a large operation winds up crossing his path having just killed several cops. Eckhart manages to take him down but his troubles are just beginning, with it revealed he just killed the only lead that could help his chief recover his lost daughter, although both lucky and unlucky for Eckhart, the man had a psychotic brother who’s armed to the teeth and now stalking him.

With Eckhart being shadowed by a citizen journalist, while the whole chase is being live-streamed, LINE OF DUTY is heavily reminiscent of Johnnie To’s BREAKING NEWS. Director Steven C. Miller keeps things relatively light despite the escalating body count, and wisely doesn’t wholly rely on the camera following Eckhart as his gimmick, meaning this isn’t another found footage film. The live stream is only used now and then and is mostly abandoned during the big action scenes – a relief as the comments never go beyond anything like “oh shit” and “damn”. There was probably a more sophisticated way to do the live stream thing, but Miller’s more down with making a straightforward action flick, which works to the film’s advantage.

Miller’s cut his teeth in recent years directing DTV actioners starring people like Bruce Willis and John Cusack, with the rub being that the big stars are working on tight schedules, meaning they contribute listless cameos, while the film is left to tread water around them. In the past, I’ve been very hard on some of these films, like FIRST KILL, EXTRACTION and ESCAPE PLAN 2: HADES. However, LINE OF DUTY is a significant step up from those, being proof of what Miller can do if given the right resources, namely a lead who is thoroughly committed.

aaron eckhart line of duty

To be sure, Eckhart is the lead here and is virtually never off-screen. He carries the film on his shoulders and the movie works because of him. He’s got the right square-jawed heroic look, but also a wit that suggests he’s in on the joke. Being more of a regular guy, part of the fun of the movie is watching him fight his way out of scraps with younger, better-armed opponents. A solid half of the movie is something akin to a Road Runner cartoon, with McKenzie (cast against type as the baddie) a Willie E Coyote character who, no matter how many times Eckhart slips through his fingers, emerges with even more firepower to try and stop him.

While Eckhart’s show, Courtney Eaton is a fun sidekick, with her won over to his cause pretty easily, and the tension between the two lightens up pretty early on. Giancarlo Esposito has a smallish part as the pissed-off police captain, although it’s a stretch to think he’s still allowed to be in charge of operations even though he’s been badly compromised by the kidnapping of his daughter. It doesn’t matter though – this is action movie logic and it works.

While small-scale, LINE OF DUTY (despite the run-of-the-mill title) is a gem amongst the dozens of VOD movies crowding your queue. Eckhart gives it his all, and Miller infuses the proceedings with a ton of energy (helped by the propulsive score by The Newton Brothers). It’s thoroughly enjoyable, and hopefully Eckhart/Miller follow-it-up with another fun programmer.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.