The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - LINE OF DUTY | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - LINE OF DUTY

line of duty review
When the Chief of Police's daughter is abducted, a disgraced cop embarks on a redemptive quest to rescue the girl.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Steven C. Miller

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Giancarlo Esposito, Ben McKenzie, Courtney Eaton

in the line of duty poster

Step back in time with Steven C. Miller and Aaron Eckhart’s Line of Duty, and dolefully reminisce about the many times you got to Blockbuster too late and the only films you hadn’t yet seen were those garish DTV thrillers lingering at the bottom of the shelf like quicksale just-past-its-sell-by goods in the supermarket. You know the ones; they starred Treat Williams and were called things like 'Mercenary Sniper'. In the absence of any viable alternative, you convince yourself that, hey, 'Justice Countdown' or whatever could be a laugh, and at least it’s got that guy from that show, and so, adjusting to your fate, you pick it up, along with a consolatory tub of Cherry Garcia, and slope off home.

Thing is, it never was a laugh, was it? And you never learned, either. And with Steven C. Miller and Aaron Eckhart’s Line of Duty (Miller, who also made the authentically nasty Silent Night (2012), directs, while Eckhart executive produces and stars: the screenplay was written by Jeremy Drysdale), you can once again undergo that sinking sensation of resignation as Aaron Eckhart plays Frank Penny (hahaha!), a disgraced cop whose wife has left him, but who still wakes up to a punishing routine of press ups, hard crunches and hot coffee, because he lives for the badge. We are given indication that Frank Penny is fundamentally a decent guy, though, as he has a best mate who is a 12-year-old street kid. The two hang about outside the 7/11, shooting the shit about basketball because Frank Penny is an Everyman.

in the line of duty review

You might think that this (completely innocent) accord would arouse at least some concern from passers-by, but it doesn’t because all the extras the film can afford are downtown providing backdrop for the world’s most needlessly elaborate sting. In a scene reminiscent of the peerless Village People sequence in Wayne’s World 2 (when the gang dress up as a construction worker, a sailor etc in order to spy on Tia Carrere’s lunch date), every cop who isn’t disgraced like Frank Penny is here; either barking orders from a control room, manning the hidden cameras or ludicrously disguised as hotdog sellers/sightseers while conspicuously whispering into wires curling from their ears as they track their ne’er do well.

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Turns out that this perp has, along with his brother, kidnapped the commissioner’s (Giancarlo Esposito - shouty) daughter and has assigned an arbitrary time for when the kid will die via water filling up her box-like cell. The sting goes tits up and the guy escapes (a superhuman who can outrun both trained police officers and cars), only for klutzy Frank Penny to end up shooting him in self-defence. Problem is that hot-headed Frank Penny has only gone and killed to death one of the two leads in the case, and time is running out, damnit.

in the line of duty review

Giancarlo Esposito demands Frank Penny’s gun and badge (of course he does), but does this stop Frank Penny from vowing to track down the other kidnapper and save the day? (of course it doesn’t). Aided and abetted by Ava (Courtney Eaton), a young streamer who specialises in ‘real news’, the two set off upon a high-speed, bumbling and violent trail, the very unlikeliness of which would have the Scooby Doo gang rolling their eyes with cartoon incredulity. What’s more, as Frank Penny and his attractive younger co-star smash and bash their way about a weirdly deserted city (enacting some fairly impressive low-level stunt work as they go, to be fair) the unconvincing events are all live-streamed to the masses, who are eagerly watching on phones, TV and laptops via excited cutaways. Occasionally, there are pointed barbs about how the mainstream media is not to be trusted, but somehow a kid with an iPhone and the periscope app is: an insistent subtext which becomes part of Line of Duty’s weirdly specific libertine philosophy.

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Drysdale is perhaps best known for scripting the video games Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, an oeuvre reflected in the consequence free action which characterises Line of Duty. But is there anything duller than watching someone else play a video game?

in the line of duty review

Frank Penny shoulders his way through the unnamed city, engaging in choreographed fisticuffs with anyone standing in his way, and causing mass destruction as both the bad guys and the cops attempt to stop him. Put like that, perhaps the film may sound like it could be a ‘good laugh’, after all. No mate.

What prevents Line of Duty from being enjoyable is its odious ideologies (which are overt, and tedious). The police, the government, mass media: none of these things are to be trusted in the film. What is to be celebrated, however, are the rights of one put upon white man, whom society has scorned, but who finds redemption through blowing things up and shooting people (despite the fact that his commissioner has previously banned Frank Penny from using a firearm: what does he know, eh?). Furthermore, his trials and tribulations are vindicated by a fringe media, which the film disingenuously suggests is consumed and feted by everyone. Depressingly, Line of Duty is another escapist, consolatory fantasy for the type of audience who believed Joker to be profound. Frankly, this diseased strain of popular culture is a fucking embarrassment. Haven’t we moved on from this sort of thing?

Line of Duty is on Netflix UK now.

2020 movie reviews