Shorta aka Enforcement

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Shorta (this film’s original Danish title) is the Arabic word for police. Enforcement is how it’s being sold in the rest of the world, as in “law enforcement”, but the truncation adds an extra shot of aggressiveness that’s entirely right for a boiled-in-piss drama all about the grrr.

The opening shot sets the tone – a close-up of a black kid struggling to survive a chokehold administered by the cops. When the kid later dies, the no-go estates where kids like him live erupt and two cops find themselves in enemy territory as tension boils over into violent unrest.

Jens Høyer (Simon Sears) and Mike Andersen (Jacob Lohmann) are the two cops, on their first day of buddydom, Jens the younger, more liberal of the two, but then almost anyone in the world is more liberal than Mike, an out-and-out racist who will harass anyone with a skin tone darker than his Nordic own. Complicating their uneasy partnership is the fact that Jens has yet to make a statement in the case of the kid who was choked; Mike is very much Team Cops.

It looks like we’re in a Training Day scenario – decent younger cop being shown the ropes by an entirely corrupt older one – until the kid dies, the rocks start flying and the two boys in blue find themselves at the wrong end of a housing estate.

Along for the, er, ride, is Arab teenager Amos (Tarek Zayat) who Mike was taking great pleasure in humiliating when escalating threat turned the cops into targets.

Suddenly Training Day has become a fight-your-way-to-safety movie like 16 Blocks.

Shorta/Enhancement is better than 16 Blocks, though. It has its own taste and colour and is relentlessly badass. The lighting is stark and the image contrast has been upped in post production, the soundtrack glowers menacingly, the sets are bleakly suggestive of disintegration. Even the VW Passat Estate the cops drive looks menacing, which is quite a feat for a car so bland.

A thoughtful Jens
Decent cop Jens

Also ringing the changes is a screenplay that goes an interestingly long way towards establishing just how much these cops (particularly Mike) deserve a good kicking, and then forces us to switch sympathies when they start getting it.

Amos is key here. In reality any cops with a shred of a self-preservation instinct would have let him go, but Mike (particularly) and Jens hang on to him, Amos acting as a guide through the badlands and as a vehicle to explore redemption for Mike.

Yes, Mike again. Great though Simon Sears is in the role of the quiet but tough and conflicted cop, Jens recedes in importance as the film develops, which is particularly odd considering the film started out being about him.

This becomes most apparent when the cops get separated. Jens and Amos go off in one direction, Mike in the other, but the camera goes with Mike, allowing more redemptive noodling as he meets a sympathetic brown face (Öslem Saglanmak) after having been shot – a nurse, handily. Later, there’s an awkward attempt to re-insert Jens into the story – the choked kid, the potentially incriminating statement he hasn’t yet made, all that – which doesn’t satisfy on any level

The movie has become The Raid with life lesson, but instead of the cops fighting their way up a building martial-arts style, they’re fighting their way across a building-strewn battlefield, with guns, rocks, stolen vehicles, knives, attack dogs and straight-up physical attack being used against them.

It’s an action movie for the more thoughtful audience, perhaps.

I’m not convinced the dynamics of the action-focused movie and the more human-focused drama really have many points in common, but Shorta/Enforcement makes the case that they do. It feels like a film that’s been made by a team all pulling in the same direction – its look, its sound, its casting, its sets, its acting. That must be down to co-directors Frederik Louis Hviid and Anders Ølholm in a feature debut that eventually closes out in fairly familiar fashion (Hviid and Ølholm also wrote it), but keeps the sense of threat bubbling throughout.

Shorta/Enforcement – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2021

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