Netflix UK film review: A Cop Movie (Una Película de Policías)
Ivan Radford | On 05, Nov 2021
Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios
Cast: Maria Teresa Hernández Cañas, Montoya
Where to watch A Cop Movie online in the UK: Netflix UK
“I remember exactly, and I know this for sure.” Those are the words of Maria Teresa Hernández Cañas in Netflix’s A Cop Story, as she recalls one of many incidents during a night’s patrol. A seasoned cop in Mexico City, she’s a candid guide to the job of keeping those streets safe. But the more we hear from her, the more we begin to question how straight she’s being with us.
That’s par for the course in Alonso Ruizpalacios’s documentary, which is as straightforward as the rule of the law in a city where bribery is commonplace. When pulling someone over, the question is less what the suspect’s done and more how much it’ll cost them to walk away – and that presumption from the public only makes it harder for the police to do things by the book, as any attempt at an honest arrest automatically triggers accusations of officers just trying to line their pockets.
“No one in their right mind would want to be a cop in this city,” says Montoya, Teresa’s partner, both professionally and personally and, in a way, that’s exactly what this inventive film proves.
Alonso Ruizpalacios, who helmed the underseen and similarly meta doc Museo, directs this gritty confessional with all the gloss and style of a hard-boiled cop thriller (right down to its knowing title), from the dashboard cameras looking out of patrol cars to detached pans that pivot us away from crime scenes and back again. Complete with perfectly lip-synced narration from the middle of flashbacks and re-enactments, it’s a deliberately disorienting ride filled with bold and bravura storytelling that pushes and pulls our expectations of documentary fimmmaking – to the point where we’re not sure whether we’re watching non-fiction, true crime or something in between.
Teresa and Montoya’s bond is heartwarming to witness up close, fuelled by a love and trust that couldn’t be scripted – it’s telling that a whole chapter is devoted to recounting how they got together and their resulting reputation among their colleagues as affectionate lovebirds. They’re as honest with each other as they are with us, and we get to peek behind the scenes as well as observe them in action. A montage that features a wide range of cadets creates a multifaceted dissection of what it means – and what it takes – to be a cop in Mexico. As they constantly act out different scenarios and conflicts, the film moves between training simulations and on-the-beat confrontations until the line between real and fictitious starts to blur – and we’re left with the idea that policing is all about learning how to act with authority and integrity. But behind that playful reflection lies a serious point, and Ruizpalacios never lets it get away from him throughout the film’s unpredictable, gripping twists and pursuits. The result is a unique study of the challenges of institutional corruption that’s as unexpected as it arresting.
A Cop Movie is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.
This review was originally published during the 2021 London Film Festival.