As of late, there’s been two primary cinema-related trends that are being consistently screened within the independent film scene. The first being pandemic set features — films that prominently self-reference and utilise the lockdown setting as means to create further comedic and dramatic effect. The second form are commentaries on the recent media attention to police brutality. Barbarity within the police system is nothing new; a topic that dates back all the way to its very own inception. At this year’s Berlinale however, there are two films by well-known auteurs who have decided to tackle upon this following theme. In Albatros, director Xavier Beauvois combines classic literary parallels to staggering effects within the film’s psychological and ethical discussions upon police brutality. In A Cop Movie, director Alonso Ruizpalacios’ revamps the hybrid doc with fourth-wall breaking commentary and newly recorded footage, in order to deliver on its promise of highlighting the aforementioned cruelty.
For those unfamiliar with Ruizpalacios’ filmography, the man is essentially a chemist practicing within the cinematic form. Alonso has a reputation for melding genres, styles, and other unique practical tools in his eclectic kit of editing techniques within all of his features. In many regards, he’s already created his own distinct style; one that utilises a creative mesh of commentary, themes, and other directional cues to create a fascinating mirage of movement. In the case of A Cop Movie, Ruizpalacios primarily constructs his narrative out of recreated footage that features his actors dubbing the very real testimonies of his two primary subjects. For fans of Errol Morris or even the more recent works of Sonia Kennebeck and Bart Layton — the work on display within A Cop Movie demonstrates a clear fascination and appreciation for both the technical and the emotional power in which the contemporary hybrid-documentary medium holds in our pressing political state.
A Cop Movie is also a film purposefully divided into five unique parts; a structure familiar to the work of a greek tragedy. Whereas the film opens somewhat conventionally with your standard reconstructed and contextualised material upon its sensitive testimonies — A Cop Movie eventually takes a radical thematic shift once it reaches its final two chapters. Ruizpalacios cleverly frames the meta, where he sets his own performers on a spiritual journey of sorts through video journals. While these scenes are occasionally preachy and overly sentimental; they still withhold a great amount of value within the film’s overarching purpose and punch. It’s yet another great step forward in the evolution of the hybrid doc — a film that demonstrates that Ruizpalacios is not afraid in tackling new territory with each creative endeavour.
It’s difficult to recreate the same lightning in the bottle with the direction that Ruizpalacios took with his previous feature Museo. However, with the determined efforts of his cast, crew, and brave interviewees — Alonso yet again delivers with his trademark direction alongside an urgent and thunderous applause. Far more immediate compared to his other two feature films, A Cop Movie is staggeringly relevant, aptly paced, and disturbingly informative. In a structural and societal foundation built upon bribery and frequent corruption, Ruizpalacios boldly questions these authoritative structures with great poignancy and historical relevance.
Dir: Alonso Ruizpalacios
Runtime: 107 minutes
A Cop Movie is set to compete for the prestigious Golden Bear award at this year’s 71st Berlinale. Netflix will release the film in the coming months.