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Film ● Review: Line of Duty

Title: Line of Duty

Director(s): Steven C. Miller

Screenwriter(s): Jeremy Drysdale

Studio: Heavy Dose Studios, Sentient Entertainment

Released: 2019

Runtime: 1h 38m

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Courtney Eaton, Jessica Lu, Ben McKenzie, Dina Meyer, Giancarlo Esposito

My Verdict: Implausible plot progression. Constant action with decent cast and performances can’t save it.

Line of Duty

● A kidnapper eludes a team of cops and Officer Frank Penny (Aaron Eckhart) on his beat responds even though he is instructed to stand down. After a lengthy chase in which the kidnapper somehow evades and beats up a few cops whilst running around in the open, Penny is forced to shoot him. Team leader and former partner Tom Volk (Giancarlo Esposito) is not happy since the only lead is now dead. There is a time issue regarding the victim and Penny insists on helping…

● Caught up in Penny’s efforts is independent journalist Ava Brooks (Courtney Eaton) chasing her first story. Since Penny requires transportation which Ava has, she offers it in exchange for tagging along.

● Given the time issue for the kidnapping victim, what follows after the aforementioned chase—that is, the rest of the film—is basically in real-time. This is appreciated but the sense of urgency (dramatic tension) is not particularly strong.

Frank Penny (Aaron Eckhart)
Frank Penny (Aaron Eckhart)

● The main problem with this film is that the plot progression is ridiculous. The opening chase already comes across as contrived and what happens after is worse. For example, Volk asks Penny to surrender his weapon. He complies and is supposed to be escorted back to the station but he just somehow walks away to continue doing his thing as if nothing happened.

● There is even a shot of Penny with a weapon in his holster even though there isn’t supposed to be.

● The kidnapper is not acting alone. Setting aside that Penny allowing Ava to tag along and livestream is hardly plausible, there is the obvious issue of allowing the other kidnapper to know you are coming. For this kind of film, a simple request for Ava to set a delay to her stream would be sufficient.

● The film tries to make all independent journalists look like weirdos (but not necessarily in a good way) whilst mainstream media are just leeches. Penny makes the point that he doesn’t like any of them and although there may be a lot of truth in all that, the point is just too crude and cheesy.

● Of course, it looks like half the city is following the livestream (or the news on television that is leeching off of it) as if they have nothing else better to do.

● Penny tries to chase down leads, which is fine, but then the other kidnapper goes after him. This is fine too except this guy just opens fire in public in a way that totally exposes himself and is somehow not taken out despite the number of cops. There are more nonsensical issues but no point in mentioning all of them in this review.

● The production is mostly not bad. There are a few shots in which the visual effects are obviously not up to standard but the film mostly looks fine. The cinematography and film editing is mostly fine. It aims to have some grit but doesn’t push it too far.

● Despite some grittiness, with two leads working together, there is that buddy-cop feel to it (even though one of them is not a cop) and the humor that comes with it. The balance is managed well and consistently enough despite some moments of cheese.

Ava Brooks (Courtney Eaton)
Ava Brooks (Courtney Eaton)

● Setting aside the numerous (plotting) issues, the action is constant even if the set pieces are mediocre so that keeps it mildly interesting.

● The characters follow the commonly used template: Penny is the experienced cop who has his issues and is branded as a bit of a “cowboy” although that assessment is not entirely fair, and Eaton is the young and idealistic aspiring journalist. Eckhart and Eaton do a good job and the two have good on-screen chemistry despite all the problems, but even a decent cast cannot save the film.

● Overall, although one doesn’t expect much from this type of action-thriller, the plotting issues prevent one from truly getting into it. The constant action and good performances can only do so much to mitigate the problems.


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