{Movie Review} Body Cam (2020)

Protect, Serve, Survive

Body Cam (2020)

The latest revenge based horror film from Paramount Studios and director Malik Vitthal, Body Cam, makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s supposed to. The movie’s concept is simple. Mary J. Blige plays Renee Lomito Smith a police officer who witnesses the brutal murder of her partner at the hands of an unseen monster. Her body cam offers more questions than answers. As more police officers get murdered Smith must get to the bottom of what and why something is hunting police officers.

Vitthal brings a grittiness to the story. This grittiness manifests by making the film very dark. Not just metaphorically but literally. The bulk of the action takes place at night and is lit in creative if sometimes distracting ways. It would be the type of film I would tell you to see in a really dark theatre. In the times of Covid-19 I get why that is a big ask. Do yourself a favor find the darkest room in your house and take a look. The darker the room the richer Vitthal’s decision making as an artist come through. The darkness of the film helps highlight how Smith feels as a police officer. It is a dangerous job and becomes even more dangerous when you cannot see what is in front of your face. Moreover the murkiness of the film gives rise to the general moral ambiguity the film leans into.

Mary J. Blige is the standout in this film. Vitthal asks her to do a lot with very little backstory and Blige delivers. I found myself wanting to spend more time in Blige’s lonely house while she was haunted by the ghosts of her past. She brings a toughness that seems like a natural fit for the officer Smith. Her partner Danny (Nat Wolff) seems doe-eyed enough to play the naive young cop but the relationship between the two never seems fully explored. I care way more about Renee and the other mother featured than any of the cops or characters. Vitthal does not seem overly concerned with creating well rounded antagonists. The bad guys here are REALLY bad. While it was not necessary for me to fully appreciate the movie some may wish for a little better development. Honestly speaking the fact the movie does not make an effort to “both sides” this argument allows me to the space to openly root for Renee and other women of color in the film.

The largest reason you should see this movie deals specifically with the complexity of which Vitthal paints the relationship Smith has with the police force. “Not all cops” gives rise to larger questions of how an African American women may try to carve out her own place in a space that is dominated by white men. Moreover the movie does not shy away from looking at how a mostly white police force deals with people of color. The relationship between mothers and their son’s dominates the last twenty minutes of the film and offers some of the best social criticism I have seen on the screen this year.

The action of the movie is mostly confined to a couple of set pieces. Some may argue that this slows the film down too much. I get the criticism but I think that allows the audience time to revel in their own discomfort. The movies final set piece is also its most brutal. Its brutality is certainly physical in nature but takes on an entirely different dimension when paired with so many actual scenes of mothers mourning their sons after they have been killed by a police force that was meant to protect them.

If you want more details about the movie, Director Malik Vitthal and I sat down for a brief interview about the film. We chatted about the politics of the movie, Mary J. Blige, and how he helped design the creature. You can listen below or download as an extra credit episode for The Horror Pod Class.

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