This 1995 police drama from Charles Burnett opens with an intersting touch - comic book panels that look at a crime in progress. The picture then jumps to J.J Johnson (Michael Boatman)'s first day on the force. A recent graduate, he now finds himself a member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, a job he dreamed about since he was young.
However, it doesn't take long for J.J. to see his dream job begin to sour before his eyes. The department, headed by Clarence Massey (Richard Anderson), shows corruption in every corner, as Johnson witnesses racial profiling and other offenses. Johnson doesn't speak out about what he sees right away, as being the first African-American officer in the police unit has gotten him a chilly reception. Johnson also shares the outsider position with Deputy Deborah Fields (Lori Petty), the only female officer in the group.
The corruption in the department comes to a boil when a murder is pinned, due to the officers conspiring together, on an innocent African-American man (Ice Cube, in a small role, despite being featured on the poster.) Johnson finds himself on the side of the force in the trial, but afterwards he realizes the true extent of the corruption.
"The Glass Shield" does offer fine performances from Boatman and others, but the movie's main fault is that it lacks much depth and detail. Everyone on the force besides Fields and Johnson appear to be corrupt - and not corrupt in a way that has any inner debate. The result is that there's no real detail to many of the characters aside from being "the villians". As a result, Michael Ironside and M. Emmet Walsh, among others, are wasted in so-so roles. The movie as a whole also suffers, feeling dry and slow.
A fairly low-budget production, the combination of the so-so screenplay and the static camerawork makes this feel like a very average TV production. "The Glass Shield" isn't a total loss, as I liked Boatman's performance, but it certainly has issues that a good lead performance doesn't overcome.
VIDEO: "Glass Shield" is presented by Miramax in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is satisfactory, as sharpness and detail are pleasing, but not noteworthy. The picture can look a tad soft at times, and shadow detail is average. No edge enhancement was spotted, but some minor pixelation and instances of dirt/wear were seen. Colors looked bold, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: "Glass Shield" is presented in Dolby 2.0 on this release. Sound quality is fine enough, with dialogue, music and sound effects that generally sound crisp and clear.
EXTRAS: Commentary by writer/director Charles Burnett and composer Stephen James Taylor. There's also a conversation with director Charles Burnett, a featurette on scoring with Taylor, the film's trailer and sneak peeks for other Miramax titles.
Final Thoughts: "Glass Shield" offers a pretty good performance from Boatman in the lead role, but the rest of the movie doesn't hold up around him terribly well. The DVD offers satisfactory audio/video quality, and a nice helping of supplements. Recommended for fans.