Body Cam

  • 06 Jun - 12 Jun, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

In last October’s well-intentioned yet hackneyed action drama Black and Blue, Naomie Harris played a cop caught between allegiance to the force and to the community as she uncovered wrongdoing via her body cam. Cut to seven months later and we’re in eerily similar territory with the unceremoniously dumped Body Cam, a buzzy Paramount project that’s been given a hushed digital launch instead, a response to the ongoing closure of cinemas but also perhaps the underwhelming box office of the aforementioned. While it’s far from the firestarter it could have been, there’s more to this than its release would suggest, an angry, slickly directed thriller that still manages to generate enough of a spark.

While there are clear commonalities between the two (black female lead, ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter, impoverished setting, uncomfortable racial tension), Body Cam takes the elements of a cop drama and implants them into a horror film, a brave gambit that halfway works, nobly trying something fresh by mashing together two genres that can feel rather stale. At times the film’s two sides loudly clash, leaping from hokey to hard-boiled with unease, but in its finer moments, when director Malik Vitthal really finds his groove, there’s a sense of dread that binds both genres, reminding us that a shadowy supernatural villain can be just as frightening as a reckless cop with a gun.

LAPD officer Renee (Mary J Blige) is headed back on the streets after losing her temper with a civilian who questioned the legitimacy of her blackness, a fuzzily explained altercation that took place not long after her young son died in a drowning accident. While we as viewers wait for Hollywood to come up with a tragic backstory for female characters that doesn’t involve the death of a child, Renee finds herself embroiled in a confounding puzzle involving the grisly murders of cops she works with, each recorded in part via cameras.

There’s an ambitious attempt here to create the sort of mythology that could kickstart a franchise. It’s also sadly not the sharp, scary and socially aware genre mash-up it could have been given the ingredients, but watching Vitthal aim high and not quite make it is still preferable to watching so many other horror film-makers remain satisfied with lazy regurgitation. It’s a failed gamble, but a gamble nonetheless.