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In a near future Los Angeles, Officer Terry Downe (Kim Coates) is the perfect cop, a man with an insatiable desire to clean the streets of the vermin infesting the city. What makes Downe exceptionally well-qualified for the job is that no matter what happens when he takes on the bad guys, be it shot, stabbed, sliced, disembodied, or exploded, the wonder scientists in a top secret underground LAPD lab will put that cop together again, Phoenix-ing him back to his old violent self with no memory of how he got there but packed with that good old-fashioned vengeful rage every good superhero needs.
Running back up for the Frankenstein monster-esque boy in blue is a four-man crew of cops who hold the perimeter while Downe does his business, wrecking everyplace he goes. One of these cops is rookie Officer Gable (Tyler Ross), who doesn’t quite get his role in this new assignment, wanting to be part of the action and follow procedure by the book rather than hang out on the sidelines. He’s told, or rather harshly reminded, that interfering with Downe’s “work” could put innocent people’s lives in danger, but he can’t let go wanting to learn more. He discovers much about who Downe is and the process that keeps this officer alive.
Directed by Shawn Crahan and based on the comic book series written by Joe Casey, who wrote the film’s screenplay, Office Downe clearly has its roots in the RoboCop franchise with a strong influence from Edgar Wright, in particular his under-rated Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, with its splashy on-screen graphics and hyper-editing, though it can’t quite find the same tonal balance or perverse sense of black humor that these others do so well. Still, Crahan has a lot of style and creates a mostly memorable look at an interesting character nonetheless.
That has a lot to do with Coates, who is not quite as imposing as Peter Weller‘s RoboCop, but does give the long-suffering hero a nice sense of humanity, despite the absurd violence and his seemingly one-dimensional motivations. Coates wears the appropriate sneer throughout and certainly invests himself wholly into the role, which helps a lot in keeping up with often over-the-top story.
We learn that Downe has been at it for over twenty-five years, almost daily being bludgeoned and blasted before getting revived in an almost as equally horrific procedure that involves a group of very particular people. There is an evil criminal organization called the Fortune 500, led by a trio of seedy characters in surreal animal costumes who hire teleporting ninja assassin Zen Master Flash, who mouthes everything in Japanese but is heard in cheesy dubbing (an admittedly funny bit) to take down, well, Downe. But as the story progresses, for the first time since he started, he can’t do it alone.
Taking in Officer Downe requires a strong stomach as much of Crahan’s vision is saturated in B-grade gore that makes a lot of it cartoonish yet exceedingly bloody. But unfortunately, there isn’t much original or clever in the presentation. Female characters are reduced to either sexual objects (one naked girl is given an on-screen Orgasm Counter) or empty, obvious character models with one wearing a punk style nun’s habit leading a horde of similarly-dressed machine gun-totting nuns. The police captain is a woman but is so thin in development, she might as well be a cardboard cutout.
The film makes several missteps but it’s largest is Downe himself who is supposed to be a top-drawer police officer committed to preserving the laws of the land, protecting the people within, and upholding the values of the police department but does so by breaking every rule in the very book he aims to follow. And with über carnage.
When you choose to watch something like Officer Downe, you expect a certain amount of cheesy fun and over-the-top entertainment. While the film does well with its budget, offering a surprisingly high level of visual effects and even some nice camera work, there is no charm in the affair, and what’s more disappointing, is the lack of momentum. Scenes with Down ripping up enemies are heartless, especially one centered around the classic Billy Squire anthem, “Everybody Wants You,” a sequence that should have been fun but is just empty. And as the film reaches for more than violence with a few touches of heart, it only tips the balance in the wrong direction, feeling unearned. A bloody, well-acted movie, Officer Downe a missed opportunity.
Director: Shawn Crahan
Writer: Joe Casey
Stars: Kim Coates, Tyler Ross, Meadow Williams