"A cop movie with actual human beings as police officers? Novel concept."
A young cop in a new setting; a cynical veteran is his new partner. Think you've seen this flick already? Nope.Let's be honest: most of the great movie ideas have already been taken. That's why we see so many buddy/cop movies and talking baby sequels. But an astute filmmaker can circumnavigate familiarity and cliche by not only acknowledging the age-old plot girders, but by relying on your expectations of those same conventions.
In other words, Joseph Pierson's EvenHand is a fresh new spin on a potentially tired old movie chestnut: a pair of policemen are partnered together and must contend with wildly different personalities and varying degress of professionalism.
On paper, this may sound like just another familiar old police procedural. I suspect that Pierson knows this as well, as he deftly paints his characters in brushstrokes of gray instead of the Formula Standard of black and white. EvenHand is not much more than a slice-of-life drama (with some sincere laughs sprinkled liberally throughout) that sets its sights one two policemen, civil servants who are fascinating because of their colorful 'realness' and not because of some broad and pedantic character traits.
The one you're sure is an asshole turns out to be the cop you'd probably trust most under pressure; the wide-eyed newcomer seems full of admirable idealism, yet one can't help but get frustrated at his painfully passive approach. That each cop is presented with a broad array of emotion and motivation is thanks mainly to Mike Jones' screenplay, but a lot of praise is due leading men Bill Sage (Boiler Room) and Bill Dawes (Fiona). Just when you think you have these guys pegged as caricatures, something subtle or unexpected raises its head and the message is pretty clear: cops are just normal working men (and women of course). Their power is derived from their status as law-keepers, but come on: they're just flesh and blood average Joes! That this comes across so effortlessly can be attributed to the excellent performances by both Bills.
That Officers Morning and Francis are forced to arrest the same oddball criminals in their small Texas town is telling in and of itself; how much GOOD are these guys actually doing? Despite their best efforts (and the ever-present risk of injury or death) there seems to be no real progress made against the torrent of small-town crime. The officers often come across as somewhat bully-ish - but is it the grueling and thankless work that makes them angry, or do they feel like generally ineffective-yet-sincerely devoted Protectors of the Community? EvenHand succesfully proposes that both are true.
EvenHand moves deftly from insightful character study to endearing 'buddy flick' with even a surprisingly heartfelt attempt at romance wedged in there too. I don't think Pierson and Company set out to reinvent the Cop Movie, but this disarming little indie does deliver a familiar concept from a decidedly original viewpoint.
And in a genre so overloaded with retreads and rehashes, a little originality goes a long way.Expect this one to pop up on cable or video sometime soon. Then donate your 3 bucks and see what you think. At the very least I bet you'll discover a few 'new' actors to appreciate, though I'd contend EvenHand offers considerably more than that.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Tribeca Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.