Stories of bent cops are more and more commonplace, both in the media and, unfortunately, in reality.
What is slightly less common are stories about the bent conscience of the corrupted men and women, a conscience ready to break under the weight of their guilt and the pressure surrounding them.
Brenda, Audrey Noone (“Paragods (TV)”, “Bostonian”) and her work partner Michael, Justin Thibault (“Delusion”, “A Life Not To Follow”) are two police officers who’ve already abused their power plenty of times.
After barging into a drug dealer’s, Anthony Gaudette (“Eyes”, “Testing (TV)”) apartment to arrest him (and take his drugs to re-sell), Brenda kills the man and Michael shoots the dealer’s girlfriend, Sheri Lee (“Paragods (TV)”, “How To Kill A Zombie”) who arrives unannounced.
These murders shake Brenda a little more than usual, pushing her to seek help from her colleague L.T. Carmichael, Chris Fisher (“Paragods (TV)”, “Turtle Boy (Short)”), while Inspector Camp, Marc Powers (“Blood Painting”, “Among Wolves”) and a cop of Internal Affairs, Kris Salvi (“Stealth Edge”, “The Astonishing”), are determined to use Brenda’s vulnerability to catch Michael, the ringleader of these operations.
Chris Esper’s (“Undatement Centre (Short)”, “Steak Knives (Short)”) short film follows a very classic structure, treading on familiar ground and using many clichés, but it also brings with it a theme that hasn’t been explored that much in the thriller/film noir canon: the guilty conscience of the protagonist (wonderfully played by Audrey Noone who makes us feel all the characters’ emotions through her eyes) within a system that is more complex and corrupted than first appeared.
This makes for an incredibly fascinating character study and social commentary; one that makes you wish Bent had been a feature-film so that this idea could have been more properly developed than in the 20-minute runtime the short film allows.
The production value is really good overall with only a few hiccups, like the first scene that surprisingly looks very cheap compared to the rest of the film, as well as the sound mixing that makes the actors’ voices too loud and clear from the rest of the soundscape – this is a strange issue to have since it makes each line of dialogue easy to hear but it also gives them an artificial feel that can break the viewer’s immersion.
Finally, to help the viewer better understand who the characters are without having long scenes of exposition, text appears on screen spelling the names and jobs of the people we see.
While this truly helps, I can’t help but see it as a cop-out: no film should have this kind of text on screen when the information could have been seamlessly explained in dialogues and visual clues.
These are only [minor] details, however, and everything else is very well done. The soundtrack especially takes us back to the ones of film noirs in a way that never feels gimmicky but instead plunges us into an atmosphere where the heavily marked style of film noirs meets with the realism of police procedures.
Bent falls into clichés most of the time but keeps at its core an original approach and a great production value. With a longer runtime, more focus on the main theme and less clichés, it could have been a truly remarkable film; instead Bent is a good short film that possibly hints at greater things to come from Chris Esper.