The Glass Shieldis the tragic tale of J.J. Johnson (Michael Boatman), a bright-eyed and idealistic black deputy-in-training who is "chosen" to join an all-white Los Angeles station for his first assignment. There, he encounters not-so-subtle racism and persecution which begins to crack his romanticism of the cop's life.
Soon after his arrival, J.J. is drawn into a plot to falsify evidence against a supposed murderer. Then, a much deeper conspiracy is uncovered, and J.J. and his sole ally, Deborah (Lori Petty, as the only female and only Jew in the department), become trapped between the wheels of the conspirators and the legal system, both of which they are sworn to serve.
The trouble with The Glass Shield is that the storytelling is so heavy-handed and convoluted that it never becomes the gripping thriller that it wanted to be. In fact, television shows like Law and Order and NYPD Blue tell more enthralling stories in half the time. Director and screenwriter Charles Burnett introduces far too many pointless characters and takes the movie down so many subplot paths that the moviegoer has no choice but to give up trying to pin names to faces. And although the lengthy narrative scenes are cut with some nice bits, like renegade cop Baker (Michael Ironside) jamming a gun into J.J.'s mouth and threatening to blow his head off in the station building itself, they don't even look like they belong in a movie that feels dedicated to droning on and on without really moving the story forward.
There are some parts to the film that shine: Boatman is absolutely riveting as J.J., and the bad guys couldn't be any badder. The clever use of sedated color and lighting and some nice camerawork help the film immensely, also. But on the other hand, the casting of Petty is a complete mystery--she's completely lifeless and out of place here. After all, I'm not the only one who hasn't forgotten Tank Girl (though I'd desperately like to).
Burnett is a lucky alumnus of the MacArthur "genius" Grant clique and obviously feels like he can't be second-guessed. Hopefully his ego won't be too bruised by the lukewarm reception his film is getting, but he does need a wake-up call. The Glass Shield may have a few bright spots, but overall, it is definitely not the work of a genius.
The Special Edition DVD includes a commentary track and interview with Burnett plus -- you know you were waiting for it -- a featurette on film scoring.
Run time: 109 mins
In Theaters: Friday 2nd June 1995
Distributed by: Miramax
Production compaines: Miramax Films
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Fresh: 14 Rotten: 8
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Charles Burnett
Producer: Thomas S. Byrnes, Carolyn Schroeder
Screenwriter: Charles Burnett
Starring: Ice Cube as Teddy Woods, Lori Petty as Deputy Deborah Fields, Erich Anderson as District Attorney Ira Kern, Richard Anderson as Watch Commander Clarence Massey, Thomas Babson as U.S. Marshall, Monty Bane as Coroner, Ernie Lee Banks as Mr. Woods, Michael Boatman as Deputy J.J. Johnson, Bernie Casey as James Locket
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie brings a dark and gritty tone to this larger-than-life franchise. Along with...
With a spectacular setting and two solid actors on-screen, this thriller builds enough solid suspense...
Those bright sparks at Pixar have done it again, taking a fiercely original approach to...
Slick direction and meaty performances may be enough for some viewers, but this boxing drama's...
Loose and impressionistic, this beautifully shot film traces the career of a DJ who pioneered...
Without a single moment of originality, this found-footage horror movie really deserves to be the...
An intriguing premise keeps the audience gripped for about 20 minutes before the movie runs...