Review: A Cop Movie

Score:  B

Director:  Alonso Ruizpalacios

Cast:  Raúl Briones, Mónica Del Carmen

Running Time:  106 Minutes

Rated:  NR

"No one really cares if a cop dies."

Flirting with the boundaries of actual and make-believe, director Alonso Ruizpalacios takes us deep within the Mexican police force, highlighting the story of Teresa and Montoya, partners known as "the love patrol." Their telling, harrowing from beginning to end, unearths a mountain of corruption within the dysfunctional system, opening eyes and ears to life under the vest.

Presented in chapters, Alonso takes his time introducing us to his two players. First is Teresa, a legacy cop whose journey to joining the force is similar to many colleagues. Her father was still in the force when she decided to join. In Mexico, being an officer isn't a privilege or an honor, rather a resort of your circumstances. Teresa's father struggled with her decision to enter the profession, only showing his support through a single letter written months after her graduation from the academy.

Our first sight of Teresa is her responding to a call in a nearby neighborhood. A purposeful sense of chaos is in the air as she arrives on the scene to find a woman, feeling immense pain, amid childbirth. Without an ambulance or medical team nearby, she grabs a pair of gloves and a dull pair of children's scissors and does her best to deliver a healthy baby, lacking any medical training to perform such a task.

Through Teresa's own words, we travel with her through her area, watching as she navigates the unpredictable public, working to serve the people but forced to play the game. Ruizpalacios blurs the lines between his footage, beautifully interweaving a rough-cut documentary style with highly choreographed sequences. It is, at times, hard to distinguish between the two, bringing with it an added layer of complexity as the unbelievable yearns for more explanation, forcing you to think and decipher between the two mediums.

When we meet Montoya, Teresa's husband and patrol partner, we begin to understand their story better. A divorced father with emotional vulnerability, he entered the force under a different pretense. By the time we get our first glimpse of him, we better understand Ruizpalacios' style and approach. It doesn't make Montoya's story more or less appealing, but we can latch on to his presentation from the onset, having a basic knowledge of what's happening on screen.

When the two sit next to one another, discussing their courtship, things appear authentic. They giggle and flirt on the couch, an intimate love-making scene highlighting their affection. There is no sign that they are anything but a couple. The truth beyond what you can see is what makes A Cop Movie so unique.

Painting with detailed brushes, Ruizpalacios beautifully crafts a film that prioritizes the human experience, never sacrificing style or purpose. An entrenched hybrid of fact and fiction, the film is built on interviews with two veteran members of the Mexico police force. But those stories come to life through the performances of actors: Mónica Del Carmen as Teresa and Raúl Briones as Montoya.

Additionally, the film offers us a unique vantage point, spending almost half of its time showcasing the actors' own experiences training for their parts at real police academies. That segment exists as an honest, true documentary, directly speaking to a more extensive thought that wearing a uniform is, in some fashion, a form of role-playing.

Rarely politically correct, Ruizpalacios pushes the envelope, conceptional and creatively. Though portions of the story play out in typical Hollywood fashion, much of the film highlights the loneliness and disenchantment many officers experience. We repeatedly watch as our two actors, after hours of brutal police training, learn lines alone in their rooms.

Six months of training. It seems so short for the power entrusted to the men and women who go through the physical, mental, and courage exercises. I'm not sure which is more compelling, the actual accounts or the actors' training activities. That fact alone shows that Ruizpalacios is one of Mexico's most powerful new voices in cinema, A Cop Movie a tease into his future creations.

*This film is presented in Spanish with English subtitles.
*This film is streaming globally on Netflix.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.