In the Line of Duty (2 stars)

In the Line of Duty

Steven C Miller's slick but troubling actioner stars Aaron Eckhart and Courtney Eaton

In a thoroughly modern take on the buddy-cop actioner, In the Line of Duty (in the US simply Line of Duty) sees plucky young citizen journalist Ava (Courtney Eaton) team up with disgraced beat cop Frank (Aaron Eckhart), streaming live footage of their escapades to her thousands of social media followers as they race against the clock to save the police chief's kidnapped daughter.

Director Steven C Miller (Escape Plan II) keeps the pace slick and capably handles the action set-pieces, while Eaton just about manages to make endearing a character who opts for some outright naive and dangerous choices, and Eckhart balances physicality with occasional knowing humour. However, Jeremy Drysdale's screenplay is a rickety foundation for them to build upon; most egregious is the irresponsibly pro-cop attitude underpinning it all.

In Frank's first interaction with Ava, he points an unloaded gun in her face, lecturing her to not judge a man before walking in his shoes – after she voices concern about police misconduct because he has just killed a suspect. The script works overtime to reassure viewers that Frank is not one of those racist cops, by showing him hanging out with a black boy from the neighbourhood – a simplistic choice that belies the institutional nature of police racism.

Frank is pulled from active duty, so goes rogue, commandeering people's vehicles with no culpability. A shoot-out in the middle of the street has him taking cover behind a still-occupied car, reminiscent of the recent Florida highway shoot-out that drew criticism of police tactics when a bystander and the UPS driver who had been taken hostage were killed.

Naturally, the whole point of the film's preposterous premise is that the initially sceptical Ava eventually realises 'there are dope-ass cops out there doing everything they can to protect people,' a conclusion that implies Frank's white saviour-y results justify his troubling means, and trivialises real concerns about policing.

Limited release from Fri 3 Jan.

In the Line of Duty

  • 2 stars
  • 2020
  • UK / US
  • 1h 38min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Steven C. Miller
  • Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Courtney Eaton, Dina Meyer, Giancarlo Esposito
  • UK release: 3 January 2020

Plucky citizen journalist Ava (Eaton) teams up with disgraced beat cop Frank (Eckhart) as they race against the clock to save the chief’s kidnapped daughter. Slickly paced thriller in which the leads’ skill is outweighed by a simplistic pro-cop approach that trivialises real concerns.