GORE IN THE STORE
SHORTA (aka ENFORCEMENT) ****
Directed by Anders Olholm and Frederik Louis Hviid.
Starring Jacob Lohmann, Simon Sears, Tarek Zayat.
Thriller, Denmark, 108 minutes.
Released by Vertigo Releasing
Reviewed as part of Glasgow Film Festival ’21. Available from 28th February to 3rd March
Shorta, the Arabic word for police, arrives on screen immediately announcing its timely look at police brutality with the troubling image of a black man screaming out “I can’t breathe!” as he is pinned to the ground by unseen policemen. The accusation may be levelled at the filmmakers that such an astonishingly timely image could be the result of post-production tinkering to capitalise on recent events but from the way the film unfolds its storyline of overzealous policemen and racial tension it comes across more as an instance of coincidence and synchronicity.
Set mainly in the Danish urban estate of Svalegarden, we follow a mismatched pair of policemen; the quiet and patient Jens and his partner for the day Mike; a lumbering, unfit, prejudiced bully who revels in making things difficult for anyone who looks at him the wrong way. One such instance involving the stop and search of a young Muslim man, Amos, suddenly erupts into a conflict that sees the two policemen stranded in the vast development, cut off from support as the city erupts into riots following the brutality inflicted on the seemingly innocent man which we witnessed at the films beginning.
From hereon the film follows the under-siege policemen as they try to navigate their way to safety through an increasingly hostile and dangerous atmosphere fuelled by the hatred towards the police. Comparisons have already been made with the works of Walter Hill, a director who specialised in men under siege in an urban setting, THE WARRIORS despite its near mythic stylings has a near identical premise to this film which is more rooted to the present days current reality. The ultra-macho characters and their antagonistic relationships with their partners and/or teammates that Hill also specialised in also comes under examination here as the films plot takes in loyalty to the badge no matter what. This plot line leads the film down a refreshingly unpredictable path where the film takes a surprisingly thoughtful approach that leads its characters towards a startling reckoning against not only each other but themselves.
This debut feature from directors Olholm and Hviid may also draw comparisons to last years police thriller LES MISERABLES with its mix of social commentary and chase movie, but they have injected their own film with enough style and commentary of their own to make sure it stands on its own, particularly with its surprising closing act. The performances here are also very strong, Simon Sears as the sympathetic Jens immediately has the audience onside whilst keeping them at arm’s length, especially in regards to his knowledge about the brutality that has kick started the film, while Jacob Lohman’s portrayal of the antagonistic Mike immediately bristles against the audience only for the films events to mould him in a refreshingly different fashion.
The tension rises throughout the films running time and lingers in the mind long after with a morally challenging ending that tests the audience and their sympathies, leaving them on the hook with no easy answer at hand. Walter Hill and William Friedkin would probably be proud of what it accomplishes with its tale of dirty cops and the dangerous games they play in the name of their job. It makes for a film that easily juggles both the thrills of action cinema against a socially aware and timely look at the law and the effects of what happens when the people rise up against it.