The Aaron Eckhart starring In the Line of Duty begins, innocently enough with a montage of a man in control, one who for all intents and purposes seems a tad anal, the kind of person you’d hate to know because they always think they are right. Over the course of the film however this persona fades away as you begin to realise, Eckhart’s Officer Frank Penny is a police officer and in this world, police officers are idiots.
When Penny discovers that his old friend detective Volk’s (Giancarlo Esposito) daughter has been kidnapped he finds himself racing against the clock to save her after he accidentally ruins their best lead. When he finds his actions being live-streamed by ‘reporter’ Ava Brooks (Courtney Eaton) he sees his actions being judged on a national stage as he pushes the boundaries to save a life.
Despite the novelty of real-time keeping Stephen C Miller’s film from careening off into farcical territory, it does occasionally detour into the realm of satirical comedy as Eaton and Eckhart have to struggle through narrow-minded and oftentimes offensive dialogue designed to make fools out of a younger generation with admirable yet misguided ideas of how to change the world. The OK Boomer argument that is peppered throughout doesn’t play like the coming together of generations, more like the drunken musings of two people waiting patiently in the taxi line after a night out.
However, the expectation of political finesse, or any kind of panache in a film that builds itself around action beats instead of an actual plot might just be a tad naive. Angling for a tension-filled chase movie, Miller crafts an unexpectedly brutal film with bone-crunching, intense fight scenes and bloody shootouts that can be forgiven for any lapses in common sense, for which there are many. Populated with bigotted police officers, meth-dealing terminators and self-entitled news reporters, it’s hard to know who Miller is aiming his film at, but it is hard not to enjoy the deluded car crash that ensues.
While irritating questions of logic will find themselves invading your headspace from time to time, suspension of disbelief is key here. Sure it seems illogical that a father would be investigating his own daughter’s kidnapping and a police department would be actively encouraging it, but for the sake of continuity and your sanity, who cares!
The often jarring tone, perfectly displayed with a title card that feels ripped straight out of a 80s John Hughes movie, never really goes away but the jump from action caper to buddy comedy at times feels less incongruous than it should. Miller never takes himself too seriously and the addition of a wonderfully camp Ben McKenzie as an ex meth dealer with an axe to grind makes the unintentionally funny moments roll gleefully into the genuine comedy moments.
There is much to enjoy about In The Line of Duty if you embrace the limitations right from the start but most will probably find it a grating experience akin to a low budget Fast & Furious, all flash and no substance. Personally, I had a blast, for perhaps the most illogical of reasons, the fact it made little to no sense.
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