Monday, 25 October 2010

S.I.S: Special Investigation Section


Written & Directed by: John Herzfeld
Starring: Matt Nable, Peter Stebbings, Omari Hardwick, Colleen Porch & Keith David

Surprisingly good and taut police thriller that pulls no punches in its action scenes and is strengthened by its strong characters and gripping narrative. Originally made for TV and presumably as a pilot for a TV cop show that didn't get picked up, SIS is a short and sharp blast of cop thriller antics that embraces it's pulpy roots but gives us real and interesting characters to root for.

Treading similar ground as the Mark L. Lester film from the early 90s, SIS: Extreme Justice, John Herzfeld's film deals with the exploits of a splinter police force who target and go after extremely dangerous and violent criminals, attempting to catch them in the act of committing a crime and dealing with them by any, violent, means necessary. So we get an eclectic array of police officers attempting to balance normal life with their police life, a new recruit who is walking his own fine line of sanity and some particularly nasty bad guys our team is attempting to shut down.

It's Herzfeld's (who also made the very underrated 15 Minutes and The Death and Life of Bobby Z) tight script and direction that makes SIS so entertaining. It may have it's fair share of pulpy incidents but pulp, to this viewer at least, if quite often what makes cop films/thrillers so entertaining. Herzfeld always makes his characters seem real no matter how violent and over-the-top proceedings might get, the main cast having real personalities rather than being typical stereotypes. After too many cop shows featuring know-it-all characters and impeccably dressed leads, it's nice to see movie cops being tough, gruff and a little scruffy again.

Much like he did with 15 Minutes and Bobby Z, Herzfeld keeps everything tight and taught, the momentum always sustained and offers up some bad guys who actually feel like a violent threat to our heroes. The flick is also peppered with some slick action including the opening shootout and tensely mounted finale which sees the cops thwarting the bad guys latest robbery. There is also an incredibly tense shootout in a house about half way through that also shows Herzfeld can keep action just as taut as his characters and direction.

While the millions of cop shows that clog up TV and sell truck loads of box sets will for the foreseeable future be seen as the benchmark in cop thrillers, SIS is a welcome down to earth and character based police story with a nice side order of fierce action.

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