DIRECTED BY: Malik Vitthal
STARRING: Mary J. Blige, Nat Wolff, David Zayas, David Warshofsky, Demetrius Grosse, Anika Noni Rose, Lance E. Nichols Lara Grice, Ian Casselberry, Phillip Fornah, Naima Ramos-Chapman, Mason Mackie, Jibrail Nantambu, Sylvia Grace Crim, Jeff Pope and Lorrie Odom
One rainy night in Los Angeles, police officer Kevin Ganning pulls over a van with no plates. As the officer orders the person out of the van and as he senses there’s something wrong, he’s sent flying into the air. Police officers Renee Lomito-Smith and Danny Holledge arrive at the scene and find Ganning’s body, with Renee seeing footage on his dash cam in the police car that an unknown force shot him into the air, and had him crash onto the bonnet of his own squad car. As attacks on police mount, Renee makes it her personal mission to figure out what is the reason for the deaths.
Body Cam is Malik Vitthal’s sophomore feature, following up the underrated Imperial Dreams. Here we follow Renee Lomito-Smith, an African-American police officer who returns to her post after serving a six-month suspension after striking a civilian, and she’s also still coming to terms over the lost of her son. She is partnered up with rookie Danny Holledge on the night shift, when they receive the call to locate the car of their colleague Kevin Ganning and as they find his abandoned squad car, they see the evidence of the bloody violence that occurred, which eventually leads them to discover his body. As Renee checks his squad car however, the dash footage plays of what happened but for her eyes only, and this leads her down the path to figure out what is going on and why.
In terms of concept, Body Cam does have an interesting one, by having a supernatural force taking revenge out on police officers for a reason that won’t be explained further until the final act. If you come for the gore factor, then Body Cam does a good job in certain sequences in which the supernatural being will brutally attack anyone and everyone that attacks it, with one notable sequence occurring in a shop. The sequence is well shot, the dark lighting works well, as does the wire work for the actors being thrown around the shop.
While the concept has an interesting Candyman-esque figure and the films sets up to have a social message look into police brutality against minorities, however the film overall just feels flat and it’s primarily the pacing that kills any momentum the film gains. There’s scenes in which Renee and Danny are exploring their surrounds with their flashlights, particularly in a house that they believe a witness is residing at and the initial tension burns out and becomes boring as the sequence is way too long. What’s more, some of the dialogue that the ensemble have to say feel particularly cliche, and that line “I am a cop first, Bitch!” did feel a lot more comedic than it should be. Using horror to convey a social message isn’t an oddity, but here it doesn’t feel like it works and with the current climate about police brutality, especially in the United States, I can see that this film will be judged harshly for its timing of release, even if it is only digitally. The performances in the film feel just as flat as the narrative structure, which is a shame as there is a talented ensemble here, particularly Mary J. Blige and especially the criminally underused Anika Noni Rose.
Body Cam initially starts with promise, but unfortunately that promise quickly dies out as the films mystery becomes predictable and there’s a number of sequences that are so long where nothing happens that it destroys any momentum it had.