STUDIO: Buena Vista Home Video
MSRP: $19.99

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
Commentary with director Charles Burnett and composer Stephen James Taylor
A Conversation with director Charles Burnett
Film scoring featurette with composer Stephen James Taylor
Theatrical trailer

Whenever a film is made about cops, the focus of the film is usually a maverick cop who refuses to play by the rules or a corrupt police force. A story about routine police work probably isn’t interesting enough to base a film around, but at this point neither is corruption. The subject has been handled so many times that it’s become hard to stomach watching the heroic cop with morals struggle with either betraying his fellow cops or his own integrity, especially when shows like The Shield show us just how more interesting the corrupt characters can be.

The Glass Shield is another prototypical police corruption movie that tries to comment on various issues but never commits itself to any of them. Is it a police drama or a comment on the racism inherent in the justice system? Is the film meant to be taken completely seriously or is it meant to be seen behind a pulpy comic book lens? The film tries to do a little bit of everything and ends up coming across as preachy and unsatisfying in the process.

Richter makes it to the party.

The Flick

J.J. Johnson is fresh out of the police academy and has just been hired as an officer. He has dreamed of being a cop since he was a child and his head is full of all the police heroics from the comic books of his youth. What he encounters when he begins his job is a boy’s club made up of arrogant white officers. As the department’s first black officer, he often finds himself an outcast. He becomes friends with another officer, Deborah Fields, a fellow outcast and the department’s only female officer.

In a shocking turn, JJ uncovers signs of possible police corruption when an innocent black man is framed for the murder of a woman. JJ and Deborah begin to dig deeper into the history of the police department, finding cover-up after cover-up the more they delve into the old files. JJ finds himself at a crossroads as he realizes the true reality of the police force as opposed to his idealized comic book views of it. JJ must decide whether or not to help his fellow officers to cover up their crimes and be accepted into their clique, or to fight the corruption and let an innocent man go free.

The story may not be interesting but at least the casting is. Lori Petty does well in the role of the female officer ostracized from the rest of her officers and unwilling to go along with their schemes. Ice Cube, who gets a gigantic head on the DVD case and a lot of focus in the trailer, appears in the movie for a handful of scenes. His character may be the suspect in the investigation that fuels the plot, but it’s still a bit part. All the roll calls for is for the character to be pissed off, an emotion that Ice Cube is pretty adept at portraying.

She had pawned the tank and left that life behind, but sometimes she couldn’t help but feel as if a hideous mutant kangeroo was lurking right behind her.

The Glass Shield isn’t a particularly bad film; it’s just that it doesn’t have an original bone in its body. The protagonist is forced into betraying his fellow officers or violating his morals, and in the process he becomes the target of their hostility. People close to him are harmed by the evil people involved in the cover-up, and of course the corruption goes high up the food chain and many people are dragged into it. There isn’t a single plot element in the film that isn’t present in a dozen other cop dramas, which really leaves no real reason to rank this one above any other.

The film isn’t helped by an abrupt ending that lazily wraps everything up without ever having to show it. Yes, this film contains the classic text ending that hastily ends the story and makes everything happy. As a tribute to this lazy filmmaking technique, I’ll end this portion of the review in a similar manner:

The Glass Shield was released on bail to video stores nationwide. Due to its mediocrity, it became a subject of shame in Wal-Mart bargain bins nationwide. Today, The Glass Shield Collector’s Series DVD lives in Burank, California and runs a hot sub shop. It has dreams of being triple dipped sometime in the near future.

4.0 out of 10

Oh Tom Sizemore, what have you gotten yourself into now?

The Look

The Glass Shield is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen enhanced for 16×9 televisions. The transfer is washed out and especially dark during some scenes. The film also has an ugly neon motif that seems inappropriate in regards to its subject matter. A cop is serving a notice to appear in court to a character and all you can focus on is the ugly neon lighting and props in the background. This film was released on a bare bones DVD just last year, and with the quick release of this double dip it’s probably the same exact transfer.

5.0 out of 10

JJ claims that Metal Gear Solid is way better than Splinter Cell. Tensions rise.

The Noise

The Glass Shield’s audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. The disc contains a few features that center on the film’s musical score and the disc’s mix is good enough that you can accurately hear what the composer is describing. Audio levels are consistent throughout the film and it’s just a nice track in general.

7.0 out of 10

The glorious return of Battlefield Earth Tilt-O-Vision™

The Goodies

I’m not sure what justified a special edition of this film in the first place. I don’t recall the initial bare bones release of this film setting new sales records or even being mentioned by anyone. The special features also seem redundant. The disc contains two small featurettes with the director and composer, and then puts the two of them on a commentary track together. Charles Burnett says the same things in both the commentary and his feature, making the feature totally superfluous. The feature on the musical composition still has some merit as its much more interesting to watch Stephen James Taylor play his instruments rather than talk about them.

The commentary is a standard self-congratulatory affair. Burnett and Taylor compliment each other on their contributions to the film and then compliment the actors. Burnett does take the time to point out the motivations of the characters that weren’t made totally clear in the film. The two manage to avoid long periods of silence, but their enthusiasm for the material doesn’t really succeed in making it more enjoyable to watch. Burnett’s thoughts on the portrayal of minorities in film and his movie making philosophy are more interesting than the movie itself. The track is a nice extra for the people who like it enough to go for a double dip, as small a group as that must be.

4.0 out of 10

"Yes, I’m talking to you, Mr. Chrome Plated Machine Guns! I want my money back for Ghosts of Mars or you’re under arrest!"

The Artwork

The top of the artwork is dominated by the gigantic floating head of Ice Cube. All those XXX: State of the Union fans duped into renting this movie because of the floating head will be disappointed to find out that Cube only appears in the film for a few scenes. Below him, a cop car’s red lights illuminate the night. The cop car is being driven by the main character, whose body is incredibly blurry but whose head has been enhanced by Photoshop, giving him a very alien appearance. This cover is inferior to the bare bones release just because of its blatant lack of Lori Petty. You can never have enough Lori Petty. Ever.

3.0 out of 10

And underneath is a delicious milk chocolate shield.

Overall: 4.0 out of 10