After a series of French police movies, it’s time for Shorta AKA Enforcement, a Danish police movie. Following two cops who find themselves in a dangerous situation, this is an average thriller with a couple of things going for it. First of all, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a small but ambitious indie movie. Mostly because it has that vibe of a much bigger, more expensive movie. You can feel this from the imagined scale of events and reality of what we see on the screen. It features a familiar concept of an older, racist cop, always on the edge and a young by-the-numbers rookie.
We all witnessed the 2020 riots all across the USA after the murder of George Floyd. They are a part of a long history of efforts to resolve racial and economic injustices. France also faced many protests and riots going back almost thirty years. One of the most prominent and poignant movies about them is La Haine, a masterpiece written and directed by Mathieu Kassovitz. Shorta explores some of the same issues. Only from a cop’s side of things. Used to phenomenal Danish movies like In a Better World, Jagten, Kapringen or Flickering Lights, it was refreshing to see an average one. And don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad or anything and I really liked some parts, like the football banter.
Welcome to Denmark, the city of Copenhagen to be more precise. A city that’s on a verge of erupting as a young Arab kid ended up on life support after a police beating. The tensions are high, especially in the Svalegården, a part of the city with a predominantly Arab population. Mike and Jens are two cops who find themselves there pursuing a suspect. Soon things start to escalate, with horrible consequences.
It’s funny to think that Denmark can have a bad neighborhood, but that’s the harsh reality of the world we live in. Problems that are too complex to be explained here, pushed a lot of population from the middle east towards Europe. Something that was happening in France for a much longer time because of their colonial history. It’s important to set up the premise of the story here because it will be one of the main points of the movie. Especially since I spent these three paragraphs ranting about it.
Shorta is not an action-packed guns-blazing extravaganza but more of a standard-issue or even a slow-burner thriller. It plays like a television show, struggling to keep the suspense at times. However, the intriguing premise, refreshing setting and excellent character development should keep you occupied. You think they overdone it with the machoism but that’s just your average cop culture testosterone vibes going. The cinematography and amazing camerawork created a very appealing visual style, covering up the somewhat contrived story developments.
If you’re looking for similar movies, check out much more intense End of Watch starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. You can follow it up with The Raid and Assault on Precinct 13. And if you’re up for more Danish crime movies I recommend Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher trilogy and In China They Eat Dogs. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of eighties cop movies that treated the black neighborhoods like warzones. 1981 Fort Apache the Bronx, for example, follows a group of police officers working in a station that’s so deep in the “wild” territory it’s called For Apache. Colors is the other one, enjoy.
Directors: Frederik Louis Hviid, Anders Ølholm
Writers: Anders Ølholm, Frederik Louis Hviid
Cast: Jacob Lohmann, Simon Sears, Tarek Zayat, Issa Khattab, Özlem Saglanmak, Arian Kashef, Josephine Park, Dulfi Al-Jabouri
Fun Facts: The script’s working title was “Panser” (Cop), until director Anders Ølholm changed it to “Shorta”. This is the Arabic word for Police.