Orgasm high scores. Exploding prop heads. Poorly dubbed kung fu masters. A shit-kicking cop who can’t be killed. All this and more can be found in Shawn Crahan’s absolutely batshit insane Officer Downe, a graphic novel adaptation that oozes B-Movie absurdity through reckless decapitations and renegade heroics. Think Dredd, but with an aggressive stress put on not giving a single flying fuck about anything – like, even less than Judge Dredd’s zero tolerance policy.
Kim Coates plays Officer Terry Downe, a “special” lawman who is resurrected each day to clean the streets of Los Angeles. He’s a one-man wrecking ball with his own designated clean-up crew, including the newly assigned Officer Gamble (Tyler Ross). After witnessing the unimaginable, Gamble struggles to understand how Officer Downe defies the afterlife, which causes some friction in the bullpen with other more accepting officers – but there’s no time to waste. As ruthless criminals threaten to overtake LA (Meadow Williams as Mother Supreme/Sona Eyambe as Zen Master Flash/Adi Shankar as…uh…Adi Shankar?), Officer Downe has no choice but to unleash his signature brand of justice with devastating results. Bloody, splatter-y, head-splitting results.
Every single review of Officer Downe is going to contain the same line – “First-timer Shawn Crahan channels Slipknot’s music videos in his feature debut.” Just wait. I’m saying it now myself out of honesty, but not necessarily in a bad way. At its best, Officer Downe is sleaze-pop, Art Deco ultra-violence dealt by one badass, shit-kicking sonofabitch. Action sequences skyrocket intensity, and Crahan’s frantic vision submerges Downe in a glitzy, chaotic fever dream of neon colors and torn limbs. Crahan’s focus is more on smaller bursts of psychotic cranial pulverization rather than long-strung narratives, which will drive cinema purists crazy – but not mustache-loving action aficionados.
There’s a proud schmaltz factor that comes along with Officer Downe, especially when Tyler Ross’ rookie character wastes time satiating his curious hunger for truth. As in most B-Movies, some supporting actors don’t exactly deliver Oscar-worthy performances (Ross included) – but Carhan gets away with other characters whose wacky personas are supposed to be flamboyantly (and unnaturally) distorted. Sona Eyambe’s portrayal of Zen Master Flash – for example – is nothing short of mind-boggling, as subtitles switch on-and-off while the floral-print-covered teleporting ninja cycles through languages at random. Grounded characters find themselves suffering a bit in comparison, but much like Downe’s random sexual partner, other characters charm through their cheesiest deliveries – intentional or not.
Then there’s Kim Coates (as Terry Downes), whose Stallone impression would be listed under Webster’s definition of “badass.”
When on-screen (Officer Downe not being THE main character does disappoint a bit), Kim Coates stands tall, punches hard, and kicks ass. He’s a man who busts through brick walls instead of using doors, right before brutally dispatching rooms full of unlucky henchmen. Coates’ face never flinches, whether he be freshly healed or riddled with bullet holes – a true brick shithouse torn from the pages of 80s action nostalgia. It helps that Downe lugs around a double-barred custom .85 Magnum dubbed “The Answer Man” and drives a car named “Moving Death,” but his smoldering stare is all thanks to Coates (and that epic porn ‘stache).
On the downside (LOL), Officer Downe sometimes feels like a Joe Carnahan film that’s hindered by super-thin budgeting. In addition to the before-mentioned performance issues, there’s an imbalance between truly epic action high-notes and slow, plodding arguments between Gamble and Police Chief Berringer (Lauren Luna Vélez). One might think that a movie jam-packed with Downe’s death-dealing would surely grow old, but Coates’ battles never disappoint, which only highlights more sluggish moments of underwhelming dialogue.
Scenes will feel like Crahan and writer Joe Casey are forcing 3AM-movie-channel entertainment, like an homage that’s lacking in essence – jokes fail, lines fall flat, and an awkward fixation on oral stimulation leaves heads scratching. Not all insanity is met with open arms (looking at you, “Fortune 500” voiceovers)…
Yet when Crahan is on, there’s a hardcore griminess to Officer Downe that’s sadistically stylized and punishingly powerful. I’d normally be up in arms about CGI bloodiness, but a few highlight-worthy practical kills erase the sins of whipping cameras and fake, rendered carnage. Themed villains (Mother Supreme’s nun-themed gang), fake dummies erupting bloody geysers, criminals being punched THROUGH walls (like, Kool-Aid Man style) – Crahan embraces notes of wild exploitation anywhere possible, and never apologizes once.
Heavily saturated colors and camera tricks evoke a high-speed, full-throttle vibe drenched in underground LA seediness, but rarely in an off-putting, make-your-head-spin kind of disasterpiece. Crahan displays comfort in juvenile debauchery, which makes for one confidently aggressive old-school callback.
Officer Downe will not be for everyone. Hell, the very first minutes depict an overly-long cunnulingus session that tallies how many times Downe’s nameless FWB (friend with benefits) climaxes. Right from the get-go, Shawn Crahan’s team flips a huge bird to uptight filmmaking, and Kim Coates elongates the gesture as famed law enforcer Terry Downe.
There’s a whole subplot about his “unknown” origin and Gamble’s rookie groupie, but you’re here for the twisted fight scenes full of slow-motion power slides, severed appendages, and a few brain-splattering blasts that border a fetishized view on cartoon violence (tear arm off victim, beat said victim with own arm kind of stuff). When it rocks, it fucking rolls, just like when it dives, it dives hard – but holy shit if this isn’t one of the more gloriously blood-soaked sleazeploitation extravaganzas of the year.
If only Officer Downe were given a more appropriate budget. Then we really could have seen what Shawn Crahan and Officer Downe can do…
Officer Downe is a vicious, violent bit of midnight madness that shoots first, and then shoots again for good measure. No need to ask questions.