In terms of entertainment, ENFORCEMENT does what it sets out to do
It’s not every day you watch a film with an opening that references George Floyd and then spends the rest of its runtime showing rioting from the perspective of police officers trying to escape said riots.
Enforcement (known as Shorta in Denmark, of which the film originates) is directed by Frederik Louis Hviid and Anders Ølholm. Visually, it’s very akin to David Ayer’s style and a pseudo-patchwork of cop action films in both tone and pacing. There are some cliche shots and camera movements here and there as well as obvious workarounds of a low budget in the choreography, but the narrative is still cohesive and succeeds in the empathy it wants to bring to the table. It’s just unfortunate that the direction pushes us to feel empathy without wholly understanding the problem it’s trying to solve.
After two officers put the force in hot water by choking an Arabic man, Talib Ben Hassi, to the point he is in need of hospitalization, officers Jens, who is quiet and wants to uphold the law, and Mike, a bigoted loose cannon, go out on a routine patrol through the ghetto. However, when it’s reported Hassi has passed away in the hospital, the town around them erupts into an anti-cop riot, leaving Jens and Mike to navigate a warzone to get back to the precinct.
The story is well-plotted, taking us through twists and turns that affect the characters and force them to grow and change. Though this is good storytelling, the film suffers by tying its story to current events such as the Black Lives Matter movement and an explicit reference to the killing of George Floyd (the opening minutes of the films shows an Arabic man being pinned to the ground by two cops, choking, and saying “I can’t breathe” multiple times). The most egregious of the film’s attempts to be topical appear in the last twenty minutes as it pays everything off and tries to wrap up with its answers. I will discuss these further in the Closing Thoughts with a SPOILER WARNING.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Jacob Lohmann and Simon Sears both look and act the part of the cop duo to an almost uncomfortable degree. From Lohmann’s bigoted speeches to Sears’s muted mannerisms, their chemistry is a sight to behold in both the bombastic and quieter moments. Tarek Zayat, who plays as the teen the cops have in custody and a macguffin of sorts, does well with the time and material he’s given, even if his story ends a bit abruptly. Superb casting, acting, and dialogue all around.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
The visual design of Enforcement is amazing as well, which helps with the entertainment value and could distract viewers from the film’s floundering of its social commentary. The constant changing of setpieces combined with an exquisite visual flair will keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next. Seriously, as much as I’m harping on the story elements of the film, this doesn’t detract from how well-crafted it is.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Though the score isn’t memorable, it invokes the right emotions for the scenes and the impeccable sound design. Every gunshot is rattling, every explosion rocks you to the core, and all the dialogue is crisp and clean. The overall sound mixing is wonderful as well, not requiring a change in volume between dialogue scenes and action scenes.
In terms of entertainment, Enforcement does what it sets out to do. If you view it while ignoring the real-world references embedded in the text itself, it’s a solid cop action film that fans of End of Watch and similar films may enjoy. There isn’t anything wrong with viewing a film that way, and honestly, more power to you. However, if you’re concerned exactly what stance the film takes, let’s have a little spoiler talk below. The rest of you, have fun!
AS MENTIONED... SPOILERS AHEAD!
As I was watching Enforcement, I was giving it the benefit of the doubt. I personally believe that after watching an opening scene where a man of color is choked to death by two cops as a direct reference to George Floyd, this shouldn’t be a story about cops. We are robbing the voice of the victim.
The death of Talib Ben Hassi hangs in the air throughout the film. Mike, the loose cannon, criticizes the two cops who killed Hassi as being idiots, but then hates the reputation that cops receive when events like these happen; that these people don’t understand the stress of the job, that we all make mistakes, and that they don’t understand what it takes to wear a badge as a target on their back every day.
As the film progresses, Mike goes through a story of redemption as he learns to empathize with the people he’s been harassing and realizes his prejudice. On the flip side, it is revealed Jens was there at the killing of Talib Ben Hassi as the third cop on scene who stood by, doing nothing. He wasn’t in hot water with the department and was back on patrol the next day. Towards the end, Jens accidentally shoots a kid who was running in the dark, thinking it was someone targeting him. Mike witnesses this, then the film critiques the diplomatic immunity cops have and how Jens could really get away with what he has done.
However, this is the only awareness the film brings about a system in need of reformation and restructuring. In fact, the film furthers the real-world problem by, as mentioned earlier, taking away the voice of the victim. Instead, its biggest critique of the policing system is the diplomatic immunity and how some people shouldn’t be cops. The latter point is made when Mike rips off his police patch and hands it to a kid of color who helped him, saying he would make a better cop than Mike himself.
There is no mention in the film about how most of the media representing people of color are white-oriented. There is no mention about how there is an economic system in place that keeps people of color in poverty in comparison to the head start the white population has on them.
I don’t believe this film was created out of ill will. I believe this is a story the creators felt needed to be told. Unfortunately, it isn’t. I understand that life as a cop is stressful as you put your life on the line, and that due to the history of law enforcement, you’re wearing multiple hats as you take on multiple degrees of enforcement. However, I would implore storytellers to do their research before making the wrong statement out of earnest. The problem is more than bad people being on the force, it’s a conglomeration of representation in media, the tribalism of similar ideals, and not giving the platform to the right people.