While the film itself is a bit of a mess, I still appreciated the enthusiasm and fervor that went into making Officer Downe, the big screen adaptation of Joe Casey and Chris Burnham’s graphic novel of the same name. An over-the-top and unapologetic celebration of ultra-violence, sex, immature humor, and the mayhem that makes cult cinema so great, Officer Downe is an ambitious first-time feature from M. Shawn Crahan. And while a lot of the movie feels disjointed and doesn’t necessarily succeed in its efforts, the parts that do come together in Officer Downe give the movie some really weird and wildly fun moments. With a few tweaks, I’d be game for more escapades with Los Angeles’ ultimate police officer and justice-seeker.
Officer Downe centers on its titular character, a super cop who can be killed and reanimated via advanced and highly experimental techniques, and who brazenly takes down the scum that plagues the streets of “Muthaf***ing Los Angeles” (as one graphic declares early on). And while Downe is a one-man wrecking machine, he’s never fully alone in his efforts, as a special task force has been assembled to accompany him on his law enforcement efforts, including a rookie named Gable (Tyler Ross), who quickly becomes fascinated with his super-human compatriot, complicating Downe’s efforts and the police force as well.
A subplot follows a crime syndicate known as the “Fortune 500”, whose members don animal masks (a gorilla, a tiger and a weird ostrich/vulture hybrid) and want to put an end to Officer Downe’s crime fighting ways. They enlist the help of a kung fu mercenary named Zen Master Flash (Sona Eyambe), who promises our titular character will meet his demise by his deadly hands.
Clearly influenced by its comic book roots, Officer Downe utilizes a boldly hyper-stylized approach to its material, often supplementing its wildly vivid scenes with graphics (Crahan uses an “orgasm counter” several times throughout the movie, in case you were wondering just how far he pushes the humor) and cartoonish sound effects to add a little zing to the film. The action flies by fast, which makes for a somewhat disorienting affair at times, but when Crahan does slow things down, those are the moments that work best.
There’s no denying that Officer Downe is an ambitious effort from Crahan. His years of working behind the camera on various video projects prior to this have prepared him well, but as a whole, what his directorial debut suffers from the most is a lingering sense of disjointedness from start to finish. We are introduced to a cavalcade of colorful characters and very rarely do we see many of them share scenes with each other, so it just feels like we’re watching a series of vignettes more than a fully fleshed-out feature film.
Another issue plaguing Officer Downe is the fact that there isn’t nearly enough screen time for Coates, who should have been a much bigger focus for Crahan, especially since he is the reason for the story in the first place. Instead, we spend most of our time hanging out with Gable, and while Ross is solid in the role, he’s no match for the infinitely more intriguing and badass Coates.
That being said, I still admire Crahan for taking on Officer Downe, even if it wasn’t a home run for him as a director. By and large, we need films like this to help push that proverbial envelope from time to time, and if we got a sequel that addressed a few of these issues, and featured MUCH more time with Coates, I’d be the first in line on opening day. There’s so much potential for Officer Downe to be something wholly different and unusual, and that’s something I’ll always dig, so here’s hoping producers and Crahan can pull things together more fluidly the next time around.
Movie Score: 2.5/5