The filmography of Stephen Dorff has been a curious one to me. Ever since he was Cliff Spab in 1994's S.F.W., it seemed to me like he was being groomed for a larger spot in the acting landscape, though he never broke the way I was expecting him to. And now he is apparently in commercials for electronic cigarettes? OK. But when he does a movie, he does manage to bring in some familiar faces to a production, if his latest vehicle Officer Down is any indication.
Written by John Chase and directed by Brian Miller (House of the Rising Sun), Dorff plays David Callahan, a Bridgeport, Connecticut police detective. He is married to Alexandra (Elisabeth Rohm, Angel) and has a teenaged daughter, but he also has a problem with alcohol and drugs, and his reputation tends to precede him in some of his dealings with his fellow cops. One night when he pulls over two African Americans in a car, presumably to shake them down for some of their drugs, he is shot in the stomach and left for dead. He manages to survive and his profile in the department is improved, and when a Russian gentleman tells Callahan (nicknamed 'Cal') who helped him and how it ties into his whiskey and cocaine-marinated first life as a cop, he attempts to find out the truth, all the while resisting his previous urges.
I mentioned the familiar faces earlier, and Cal's fellow boys in blue include his bosses, Lieutenant LaRussa (Stephen Lang, Terra Nova) and Captain Verona (James Woods, Videodrome), the latter attempting a balance of tolerating Cal's behavior while maintaining the positives of his ordeal. Les Scanlon is a fellow detective, played by David Boreanaz (Bones) whose contempt of Cal is a bit more evident. As a tangent, with Boreanaz AND Dorff together in the same film together (and both looking like one another to some degree), where the hell was Craig Sheffer to complete the triumvirate? Dominic Purcell (Prison Break) plays Royce Walker, a club owner who tends to pull the strings behind Cal's motivations and the motivations of others, and I say "pull the strings" because every third line Purcell seems to have includes this phrase. In more random casting from Fox/FX shows, Tommy Flanagan (Sons of Anarchy) plays a priest (?!) who serves as Cal's sponsor if you will, and a cooler priest you will not find I think. And the kicker? Walton Goggins (Justified) is a bit of a surprising cast land. It is hard to describe what his role is without discussing a twist in the story that impacts the last half hour of the film, but I will say that his appearance surprised me at first, then disappointed me because it felt like he was wasted in it.
This is something that tends to be pervasive through many of the other people in the film, though they tend to dial up the stereotypes created by past films. Woods and Boreanaz are the jealous cops, with the former tending to play the Captain who has to 'play the political song even if it impacts the department.' Purcell employs Garth Knight facial hair to play the bad guy, just in case you couldn't tell from the one-dimensional nature of his work. Rohm is the tortured wife to Dorff's self-destructive husband, and the commonality between her and the rest of the non-Dorff performers in the film is that they do little else with the parts they have been given. It all comes across as a 90 minute paint by numbers exercise.
To Dorff's credit, he has to do the heavy lifting of the story and he does a decent job with it. With a edgier story and better help from the supporting cast, it would certainly be a film that would look at least like a film based on a Lehane or David Simon novel. Miller is certainly comfortable with his setting and Dorff avails himself of as much of the conflict as possible, but it does little to differentiate itself from similar films that have done more with the material and gotten more from the cast than Officer Down does. And since this doesn't on either level, it just becomes a futile exercise.
Which kind of sumps up Officer Down in a weird way. There are still things in Dorff's performances two decades later that I enjoy, but when he is trying and the rest of the cast is doing little more than Dorff's electronic cigarette commercial (tonally) then we have just another run of the mill 'bad cop who is seeking redemption' movie.
Anchor Bay presents Officer Down in an AVC-encoded 2.40:1 widescreen Blu-ray which is a mixed bag. Flesh tones are accurate and image detail such as pores and facial hair is visible, and the Connecticut darkness looks fine, with black levels presenting a decent contrast and looking natural. Light tends to be a little blown out and background detail is weak and does not have a level of clarity that other films tend to possess. Some of it may be filmmaker intent in the hopes of making the film gritty and rough, but it was a relatively uneventful experience.
We get a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track, and the track was not half bad all things considered. Dialogue is consistent and well-balanced through the film, and I was surprised to hear ample use of directional effects to make for an immersive experience. The channel panning and low-end fidelity is not as evident (though to be fair on the latter, it is a robust non-presence), but for what little I expected from the movie, it was not all that bad.
Not a thing.
Officer Down seems to throw itself out there to the world with little fanfare and impact. If the hope is to not offend or stir emotion, then the filmmakers and cast succeed at that, but I am guessing that they did not, and that is where the problems start. The performances are bland, even as the story is marginally better than that. Technically the disc is decent though lacks anything in the bonus material area. I would rent it more than anything so you can see what Chibs and Boyd were up to during their respective hiatuses.