Police corruption stories have emerged as their own sub-genre of crime films of late, and due to the actions which reignited the Black Lives Matter movement last year, these reactionary tales are unlikely to stop anytime soon. The writer-director duo Frederik Louis Hviid and Anders Ølholm join forces to address some of these societal issues in Danish drama Shorta, a common Arabic word for police.
In the aftermath of police brutality on a black teenager, officers Jens Hoyer (Simon Sears) and Mike Andersen (Jacob Hauberg Lohmann) are assigned to walk the beat of Svalegården, a ghetto neighbourhood where tensions are running high. When news breaks that the victim of the recent assault has succumbed to his injuries, the community rises against the authorities, confining the cops in a dangerous warzone.
Because of Jens’ wariness of Mike’s questionable morals, there is a simmering conflict between the two leads straight from the opening act. An ominous tone is quickly established as the pair patrol the rundown streets in a style akin to David Ayer’s End of Watch. As the plot develops, their contrasting attitudes and opinions rise to the surface until hell breaks loose when the riots commence.
Hviid and Ølholm swiftly switch gears from a slow-burning narrative into a high intensity survival thriller, and it’s exhilarating to witness. There’s a wince-inducing bathroom brawl that’s shown through the eyes of a young offender who Mike had cuffed following a humiliating stop and search. On top of this, there’s an elevator scene that rivals the lift sequence of Scorsese’s The Departed in its nail-biting intensity.
Displaying very different characteristics, the leading turns from Simon Sears and Jacob Hauberg Lohmann make for a winning combo on-screen. Jens is calm and assured, outnumbered as the ‘good cop’ amongst his colleagues. Mike is almost a poster boy for bigotry, full of toxic masculinity with a bullishness to his white privilege. Their juxtaposition is smartly portrayed in the nuanced performances, and makes for an interesting dynamic when they find themselves caught in enemy crossfire. Playing off the two protagonists, newcomer Tarek Zayat is brilliant as the Arab youth Amos who is unwillingly taken along for the ride. As the day progresses, his cocky arrogance transforms into wide-eyed horror.
Capturing law enforcement problems within a microcosm of Scandi-terror, Shorta is an arresting, and totally gripping piece of work by Hviid and Ølholm.
Visit the Glasgow Film Festival website for tickets here!