VOD film review: Shorta
Ivan Radford | On 15, Sep 2021
Director: Anders Ølholm, Frederik Louis Hviid
Cast: Jacob Hauberg Lohmann, Simon Sears, Tarek Zayat
Where to watch Shorta online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store / CHILI
“If you’re treated like something you’re not, you end up believing it.” Those are the words of one mother to a police officer in Shorta, a Danish thriller that wears its message on its sleeve.
Directed by debut helmers Frederik Louis Hviid and Anders Ølholm, it follows two police officers – Mike Andersen (Jacob Lohmann) and Jens Høyer (Simon Sears) – on what could be just a normal day on their beat. But the film’s blunt opening make clear that they’re patrolling an area charged with tension during a difficult time – before we meet the two officers, we see a Black teenager pinned down in what emerges to be an ultimately fatal police arrest. It’s extremely harrowing and on-the-nose, playing uncomfortably close to real-life tragedy, but it lingers in your mind for the rest of the runtime – in the same way that word of the teen’s death rapidly spreads through his home neighbourhood of Svalegårdena.
The incident is also the reason why Mike and Jens are paired together, with their superiors hoping that the considerate Jens can keep the bigoted Mike in check. Lohmann and Sears are excellent at exploring these familiar types, the former volatile and unpredictable, the latter calm yet even more on edge – watching Jens’ reactions as Mike repeatedly stops other teenagers for no reason leaves us as nervous as he is.
But an ill-timed stop-and-search of Amos (Tarek Zayat) proves to be the tipping point, and Jens and Mike find themselves on the run with this unfairly profiled kid through a housing estate, as a riot erupts around them. The result plays out like Assault on Precinct 13, 16 Blocks and ’71, and Hviid and Ølholm understand the importance of using location to drive tension, from the concrete maze that seems impossible to navigate to the unwelcoming yellow and grey backdrops in which high-rise blocks leaves them vulnerable to being surveilled at all times.
It lacks the wider balance and social context of 2019’s Les Misérables, opting instead to focus primarily on our central duo/trio, which means that a redemption arc feels a tad contrived. But that’s also what gives the film its pulse, which draws you in as the situation becomes more complicated, and gives the core cast a chance to play with expectations and stereotypes. The result is a gripping ride that manages to explore police brutality, racism and justice while still keeping you on the edge of your seat. Shorta may way its message on its sleeve, but there’s enough complexity to give it a timely urgency.