26th Jul2021

‘Cops and Robbers’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Michael Jai White, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Tom Berenger, Patrick Kilpatrick, Victoria Pratt, Chuck Zito, Gillian White, Randy Wayne | Written and Directed by Scott Windhauser

Cops and Robbers stars Michael Jai White as a hostage negotiator who plays a high stakes game of cat and mouse with a cornered bank robber. As the two men learn each other’s identity, they realise they have a shared past, as estranged brothers do, with scores and grudges to be settled…

Can Micheal Jai White ever get a break? The man had obvious skills, both in acting and martial arts, which we’ve seen in a myriad of his previous films. However lately he seems to have become stuck in a rut of appearing own small cameo roles in films or playing cop roles that don’t show off his skillset. Even when he does get to kick some ass his performance seems stifled. And that’s certainly the case here.

Yes, White acts his chops off here. Outshining and outclassing everyone, even Tom Berenger (whose in more of a cameo role here) but I really wanted to see him let loose with his martial arts skills – especially given that he’s acting opposite Rampage Jackson as his brother and bank robber. Who wouldn’t want to see an MMA fighter taker on a martial artist? This stuff writes itself. Unless of course you’re writer/director Scott Windhauser and you didn’t write it into your script.

Speaking of Scott Windhauser… He wrote The Hurricane Heist, a high-concept crime thriller action film that, whilst it didn’t explode at the box office, was a ridiculous film but one that you couldn’t help but enjoy. Much like the Fast & Furious franchise. However Windhauser penned and directed Cops and Robbers BEFORE that film, way back in 2017 in fact and only now, some four years later, is the film getting a UK debut. Which is usually never a good sign. But then again, Windhauser was responsible for rewrites on Maximum Security – the Dolph Lundgren action film that had no action!

Which is certainly the case here too. In fact Cops and Robbers isn’t just missing action. It’s missing physical substance too! Yous see, it looks like Cops and Robbers was filmed on what looks like a backlot set somewhere with empty threadbare sets, with hardly any decor or people, so much so that it leads to the sound echoing 90% of the time. It’s remarkably distracting seeing a film look so “empty”, so much so that it – in the antithesis of what the filmmakers wanted I’m sure – makes you see this as a film. Audiences won’t engage with the characters or the situations because the film looks so odd…

Hell, it may be a minor thing but when a cast member sits down on some steps outside a property on the street outside the steps, which look concrete actually sound like wood – the foibles of relying on on-set audio rather than foley work I guess?! But again it pulls you out off the film completely and shows the low-budget nature of the production which only then makes the audience look at the film in more detail, thus seeing the aforementioned emptiness, thus being pulled out for the story. It’s a vicious circle.

It’s not all bad though. The concept of Cops and Robbers is solid. Two brothers on either side of the law, with one using his inside knowledge of the other to get the upper hand. The script has some interesting things to say about the police, crime and the judicial system. And the denouement is a brilliant final pay off for those that are strong enough to sit through the entire film – an ending that will lead you smiling but is still not enough to make up for the rest of the film. It honestly feels like the film was written in reverse from that conclusion, as if that was the genesis for the film and the rest had to be made up to fit that particular ending… Which might haver worked had the rest of Cops and Robbers not been so mundane.

Cops and Robbers is out now on DVD and Digital from Dazzler Media.

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