The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - SHORTA | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - SHORTA

shorta film review
Two bickering cops attempt to escape from a ghetto when a riot breaks out.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Anders Ølholm, Frederik Louis Hviid

Starring: Jacob Hauberg, Simon Sears, Taren Zayat

shorta film poster

Co-directors Anders Ølholm and Frederik Louis Hviid's debut feature Shorta shares an almost identical premise to last year's French thriller, Ladj Ly's Les Misérables, which itself took several cues from Antoine Fuqua's Training Day. All three movies see "good cops" paired with "bad cops," with the moral distinctions between the two blurring as the narrative progresses.

Shorta opens in the aftermath of a well publicised incident of police brutality in Copenhagen. A young immigrant, Talib Ben Hassi (Jack Pedersen), is in ICU following a violent assault by cops, and he's not expected to pull through. With riots expected to break out, the police have been ordered to steer clear of Svalegården, the sprawling ghetto where the victim hails from.

shorta film review

Our ostensible "good cop" is Jens Hoyer (Simon Sears), who witnessed the assault of Ben Hassi and is committed to telling the truth when he's called upon to do so. Perhaps this is why his superiors have paired him up with Mike Andersen (Jacob Lohmann), a 'roided up racist who would probably be a member of one of Denmark's notorious biker gangs if he hadn't joined the force. Mike seems to have been tasked with twisting Jens' arm in "doing the right thing" and standing by his fellow cops. This begins with minor niggling, but as Mike realises he's not getting through to this paragon of virtue he gets more and more angered.

Just as the two cops are about to trade blows over Mike's harassment of a young Arab teen, Amos (Tarek Zayat), news comes through that Ben Hassi has succumbed to his injuries. Mike and Jens happen to be right in the centre of Svalegården when the news is released, making them walking targets for the angered locals. The two cops must put their animosity aside and trust Amos to help get them out of the area alive.

shorta film review

Shorta is a movie of two halves with conflicting styles. The first half - in which we hang out with Mike and Jens and learn about their disparate philosophies with regards to policing and interacting with the immigrant community - is as compelling as Ly's film. Ølholm and Hviid ramp up the tension through Jens' failure to curb his partner's offensive behaviour. Rather than stand up to Mike, he turns away from his actions, as though wishing not to witness another incident he might have to report on. When the Arabic equivalent of "fuck the police" is spray-painted on the side of their squad car, Jens declines to alert Mike to the offending graffiti, hoping he won't notice until they're far away from the ghetto. Where Mike lives for confrontation, Jens cowers away from it.

When it's about two cops fighting each other, Shorta is a cracker. It's in the second half when Mike is transformed from a villain to a more ambiguous anti-hero that the movie becomes less successful. Where S. Craig Zahler has given us movies with reprehensible protagonists, he's also given us even more horrific antagonists, which allows us to root for his morally dubious anti-heroes. In positing the residents of a working class slum as faceless baddies more at home in a fantastical John Carpenter or Walter Hill movie, Shorta begins to leave a bitter taste in the mouth. The realism of the first half gives way to something closer to Escape from New York than La Haine as Svalegården becomes a sinister concrete jungle that never resembles a place where a community actually lives.

shorta film review

Even if you can embrace the over-the-top nature of Shorta's second half, Ølholm and Hviid lack the action chops of a Carpenter or Hill. There's a failure to establish the geography of Svalegården. In a movie where the protagonists have to get from Point A to Point B, it's essential to communicate to the audience just how far those points are from each other. In individual set-pieces, the geography is similarly difficult to get your head around, and potential "don't go round that corner" moments are absent as a result.

Shorta is the sort of movie that might land its directors a Hollywood action gig. Ironically, they prove themselves far more comfortable with the nuanced character drama and distinctive Scandinavian grit of the movie's first half than with the all-action romp of the second half. If Hollywood comes calling, good luck to them, but personally I'd prefer to see them scale back their ambitions for their next movie.

 is in UK/ROI cinemas and on VOD from September 3rd.

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