A Cop Movie (2021) ☆☆☆(3/4): An unconventional Mexican cop documentary

Mexican documentary film “A Cop Movie”, which was released on Netflix in last week, is an interesting piece of work attempting an unconventional approach to its familiar main subject. At first, it seems to be merely following the story of two different real-life police officers in Mexico City, but then it unexpectedly shifts onto a different viewpoint, and we come to see more of how problematic their system really is.

At first, the documentary introduces us to a seasoned female officer named Teresa, and the opening scene shows her going through another busy night in Mexico City. As she drives her patrol car here and there in the city, we constantly hear numerous reports and reports on her radio, and then we later see her handling a serious medical circumstance for herself. While a woman is about to give birth to her baby, no ambulance or paramedic has come yet, so, though she does not know much about how to handle such a situation like that, Teresa has no choice but to help this woman as much as she can.

While the camera is steadily around her, we get to know Teresa more as she tells us a lot about her family background. Her father is also a police officer, and she wanted to be just like her father even when she was young, but she only found herself often disregarded and underestimated by her father. Nevertheless, she did not give up at all, and she eventually went to the police academy when she was only 17, and her father came to recognize and respect his daughter around the time when she began to work outside as a police officer.

It is clear that she is proud of how she has dutifully worked for more than 15 years, but she also admits how it is often hard and difficult for her to go through one day after another. Like many other police officers, she frequently struggles with the lack of resource in the system, and she also sometimes has to accept some bribe due to her difficult economic status. In addition, it is suggested that she initially had to deal with the misogyny of many male police officers around her, and even her father clearly notified to her in advance that he did not want to get involved with any sexual harassment problem she might have.

In case of a male police officer nicknamed Montoya, he also has a fair share of problems he is willing to share with us in front of the camera. Like Teresa, he is a fairly good police officer, but he often gets frustrated with how he and many other police officers are not appreciated much by many citizens out there. During one amusing scene, we see him and several other police officers doing their job in the middle of the pride parade for sexual minority people, and the camera captures a series of silly brief moments as he is ridiculed by some participants of the pride parade.

Like Teresa, Montoya aspired to be a police officer even when he was very young. He was quite impressed by an older brother who was a police officer, and, despite his poor family background, he managed to fulfill his wish instead of becoming street criminals just like many of his neighborhood friends. At one point, he reminisces about a chance encounter between him and an old friend of his, and he muses a bit on how things could turn out to be quite different for him if he had not been determined to join the police.

Not long after revealing the unexpected connection between its two different human subjects, the documentary catches us off guard as both Teresa and Montoya in the documentary turn out to be the performers playing their real-life counterparts, and we subsequently observe these two performers, Raúl Briones and Mónica Del Carmen, going through each own preparation period. For making their performance more convincing, they study and absorb the interview clips from their real-life counterparts, and they also go through the training session along with many real trainees before spending some time with real police officers.

While getting to know more about police officers and their system, both of these two performers certainly have lots of things to tell us. They talk about how problematic the training process is in many aspects, and they also come to have some empathy and understanding on what numerous police officers have to deal with day by day.

As they get closer to their respective roles, Briones and Del Carmen are gradually overlapped with real Teresa and Montoya, and that is why the following moment, which is the enactment of an incident which really happened to Teresa and Montoya, works well with considerable dramatic effects. Briones, Del Carmen, and several other performers in this scene did a commendable job under director/co-writer Alonso Ruizpalacios’s competent direction, and you will be more infuriated as Teresa and Montoya phlegmatically tell us how they were unjustly punished after that incident.

On the whole, “A Cop Movie”, which won the Silver Bear Award for its editing by Yibran Asuad when it was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival early in this year, is worthwhile to watch for its engaging presentation of social issues which relevant to many of us. It is always interesting to observe different worlds and people via good documentaries, and I assure you that “A Cop Movie” is one of such documentaries.

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