Synopsis – When a routine traffic stop results in the unexplained, grisly death of her colleague, a cop realizes footage of the incident will play for her eyes only. As the attacks mount, she races to understand the supernatural force behind them.
My Take – With the injustice carried out by the police in the United States of America being a hot topic for many years now, especially considering how their abuse of power has led to the death of many civilians, many filmmakers have used this recurring topic to bring their own stories, albeit in a similar vein, to highlight especially the racial component behind the uproar.
While director Malik Vitthal‘s sophomore venture (following 2014’s Imperial Dreams) shares similarities with director Deon Taylor‘s film, Black and Blue, with police body cameras being at the center of the plot, along with the highlighting of the social issue, it does however come with an unexpected twist in the form of an added supernatural element.
With Paramount Pictures backing the film and Oscar nominated actress and Hip-Hop/R&B artist Mary J. Blige (Mudbound) cast as the lead, this unforeseen feature seemed to have all the makings of solid urban tale of terror, unfortunately things don’t quite come together following the very promising start.
Though the film is suitably engrossing with enough gore to satisfy fans, it is jam-packed with so many tangents that it is never able to do enough justice to anything in those meager 96 minutes it runs for. And making matters worse, despite the unique setting, it goes on to unveil itself into just another cliché cop thriller.
The story follows Renee Lomito-Smith (Mary J. Blige), a veteran police officer, who has just rejoined duty after being suspended for hitting a disrespectful civilian, and losing her young son to a swimming-accident. Though she is not happy about being paired with Danny Holledge (Nat Wolff), a rookie cop, for her first shift, Renee decides to just focus on rejoining her duty.
While the night seems to start off ordinary with a few minor hiccups, it isn’t until they respond to a call for a missing fellow officer known as Kevin Ganning (Ian Casselberry), that things begin to get strange. Though they quickly find Ganning killed in a horrible way, it is only Renee who is able to see the unexplained nature of what went down via the dead officer’s cars dash cam.
As the body count of fellow police officers proliferates, Renee is convinced that a mysterious woman (Anika Noni Rose) is somehow connected to everything, and determined to uncover the mystery, all leading to a horrible truth and an incomprehensible happening.
While the film builds enough to keep you guessing what the motivations were behind the entity’s actions as it was not only killing criminals, but cops as well, ultimately its rolls down to same old revenge plot. In the sense, if you’ve seen any ghost film before you see where this is going, as spirits tend usually all have the same agenda.
Though the film proposes to be innovative at the beginning, but along the way it forgets that idea and deflates its social component until it is one with little impact, as well as suffering from horror clichés and ending up in an underwhelming and predictable outcome. Here, director Vitthal tries to bring a grittiness to the story that is manifested by making the film very dark.
Not just metaphorically but literally, as bulk of the action takes place at night and is lit in creative if sometimes distracting ways. Sure, the film has its moments, like the convenience store scene, but what ultimately lets the whole feature down is its screenplay, which after a tight opening becomes unfocused as the film progresses and relies mostly on social commentary about the horrors of corruption in police. While the thought is clear and concise, being socially conscious is not enough of a substitute for a plot.
Both the writers Nicholas McCarthy and Richmond Riedel are not also overly concerned with creating well rounded antagonists, but just grinding old wheels and don’t go deep into anything. However, the delicious garnish are the action sequences, where the horror hits in the form of grisly kills.
Performances wise, Mary J. Blige gives a well-rounded and vulnerable lead performance, and is believable as a seasoned officer and one traumatized by violence on the job and tragedy in her personal life. Nat Wolff continues to ooze of his natural presence even though he continues to pick the weakest of materials. In other roles, David Zayas, Anika Noni Rose, Demetrius Grosse, David Warshofsky and Ian Casselberry are effective considering their thin roles. On the whole, ‘Body Cam’ is uneven cop horror thriller that wastes a unique idea on its misguided execution.
Directed – Malik Vitthal
Rated – R
Run Time – 96 minutes