Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
OFFICER DOWNE | 92 min | NR
Director: M. Shawn Crahan
Cast: Kim Coates, Tyler Ross, Lauren Luna Velez, Meadow Williams, Alison Lohman, Sona Eyambe
OFFICER DOWNE is brought to us by clown #6 in Slipknot. Maybe films directed by clowns #1-5 are far less misogynist. We’ll never know. Most likely to exclusively play in his living room from here on out, M. Shawn Crahan’s genre sludge is as if DOMINO-era Tony Scott met the collective works of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, which is fitting as Neveldine serves as one of this film’s producers. Based on the graphic novel by Joe Casey and Chris Burnham, this 3AM B-movie is horrendously awful and mind-numbingly infuriating. It’s as if this were made by a twelve-year old juvenile delinquent. I question everything about this movie’s disturbing, twisted mentality – and anyone it appeals to.
We open on Officer Downe’s (Kim Coates) pep talk to himself. And moments later there’s a naked woman writhing, moaning deliriously as a counter on the side of the screen ticks off her orgasm count. From the male filmmakers’ perspective, it reads she had about 14, but from a woman’s perspective, she may have had one… tops. That’s the mindset we’re dealing with here – a pre-pubescent one. Angel-faced rookie Officer Gable (Tyler Ross) has been assigned to an elite squad tasked to be the cleanup crew for zombie supercop Downe, who’s re-animated by the LAPD whenever he’s killed. As a plague of cartoony villains – like the garishly-dressed Zen master Flash (Sona Eyambe) – ravage the city at the command of masked evil-doers nicknamed “The Fortune 500” (despite only being a trio), Officer Gable uncovers the truth about what goes into making Downe so super.
There are myriad problems that run rampant. Crahan’s execution of action sequences is frightful. Shaking the camera, adding lens flare whenever possible, and shooting in a disorienting manner aren’t effective. There’s a sequence in which Downe picks off a pack of mercenary nuns (don’t ask) like he’s playing a carnival shooting game, replete with sound effects, and yet the visuals don’t play along with his intent. It’s generic shots of the victims falling backwards, squibs (which probably made up 2/3 of this film’s budget) splattering. They even suck the fun out of Glenn Howerton’s cameo in a totally useless scene that has no impact narratively. The sequence that has Downe fighting, set to Billy Squire’s exuberant 70’s stomper “Everybody Wants You,” lacks fun and energy. Our patience has already worn thin and disappears completely by the end of that segment. In a later fight scene, there’s a drawn out strobe effect, as if we didn’t find this film repulsive enough. Many of the creative decisions are motivated by violence for violence’s sake; however, this is endemic to the comic’s spirit. Character-based developments are eschewed for over-the-top violence and/ or full blown misogyny. Then Dr. Exposition shows up to explain the elaborate experiment being held in the basement of LAPD headquarters – a place Gable was able to get into without any security clearances or challenging physical impediments. The dubbing-over effect plays like a joke raised from its twenty-year-old grave. It’s as much of a zombie relic as the protagonist himself. Plus, there’s lots of repetition to pad the run time (which feels like an endless 92 min).
Women are either Madonnas or whores, wherein even the Madonnas – like Mother Supreme and her henchwoman (Alison Lohman) – are whores. None of this is funny or clever. The female police chief isn’t empowering because she’s barely one dimensional. In fact, all of the characters in this world suffer from underdevelopment. They are meat puppets saying words with no definitive relationships to each other, other than their job titles. There’s never any sense of the rookie’s inner turmoil; what’s his conflict? What’s his motivation? We’re told things about him, like that he was chosen for having a loose moral code, and yet we never see him skirt ethics. If anything, he’s all about ethics – at least the ones regarding ALS patients as Downe’s telekinetic regeneration power force (again, don’t ask).
That said, where the movie really goes wrong is when they attempt to inject heart. Yes, you read that correctly. There’s not just one but two scenes that have Downe surveying the experiment’s wheelchair-bound, practically comatose test subjects as if he’s feeling the weight of the department’s actions. He’s been shown to be unrelentingly robotic before, so how and when did this change? Gable musing on his problems, beating himself up emotionally doesn’t work at all because, again, thanks to the poor writing, the audience can’t get a grip on his struggle.
What should be a crowd-pleasing midnight movie sours instantly, transforming into schlocky stupidity.
OFFICER DOWNE played LA Film Fest on June 3 and 7.