With its flashy music and action cliches, A Cop Movie sets out to be stylistically reminiscent of 70s police dramas. However, for those who saw last year’s Midnight Family, a heart-breaking look at a private ambulance in Mexico City, a different resemblance will begin to emerge.
The docu-drama is about two Mexican police officers, Teresa (Monica Del Carmen) and Montoya (Raul Briones). The camera follows them as they carry out their duties, talking about their inspirations and the difficulties of serving a public that doesn’t trust them.
Midway through, the script gets flipped, and it’s revealed that these are in fact actors playing real life officers, having trained for their parts. Through their fictional roles and real testimonies, the film illustrates the true price of putting on the uniform every morning.
Fact and fiction blur from the beginning, as elements of pulpy cop dramas are woven into real life situations. The officers break the fourth wall, and talk through recreations of the moments that made them. There is an interesting duality in both characters, who view themselves as noble but are both seen to take the odd bribe.
There’s no doubt that these are good people, but their flaws betray a breakdown in the system. The camera captures a neighbour’s despair in the background as Teresa is bought off by a noisy neighbour, while Montoya’s prejudices emerge as he grits his teeth policing a Pride parade, ensuring the safety of people who clearly repulse him. Their life is a complicated shade of grey, and director Alonso Ruizpalacios embraces that.
The mid-film twist is more than a gimmick. Just as the characters offer a representation of life on the inside of the force, the actors view life on the beat through the eyes of an outsider. Both actors come into the project with preconceptions of what the police are, and what kind of person carries that badge. It’s interesting to see the boundaries pushed, even if the task of discerning the truth becomes wearying.
A Cop Movie is an inventive take on a message that a lot of Mexican filmmakers are putting on screen: the system is stretched to its limits, and it’s ordinary people who fall through the gaps. Whatever the delivery, that message remains as captivating as ever.