The Glass Shield (Burnett, 1994)

The Glass Shield is one of those rare films that gets better with multiple viewings. Initially, it’s flashy surface felt uncomfortable complimenting the intelligent, socially conscious themes surrounding a Black sheriff (Michael Boatman) and a Jewish woman (Lori petty) working in an all white Police Department. Now, I realize that’s Burnett’s point – to show the contradictions between perception and reality within a typically standard police procedural. The Glass Shield opens with vibrant animated comic book frames highlighting a heroic police chase and shootout. This turns out to be an imagining by the film’s hero John Johnson (Boatman), concerning his new job as a Sheriff’s deputy. In his perceived battle between good guys and bad guys, it’s clear who’s who. With the film’s examples of corruption, bribery, and murder, Burnett shows how the iconography of traditional cop movies can be problematic, even simplistic when not examined thoroughly. In a modern world were sexism, racism, and cronyism still exist within the work place, no one leaves unscathed. The Glass Shield represents a great filmmaker attempting to deconstruct genre, mainly by realizing it’s complex affects on humanity under the glossy surface.

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