How Line of Fire Explores Policing, Gun Violence, and Society’s Real Problem — People
Feb 13, 2023
There’s a baseline of suffering in the structure of reality that simply can’t be changed. Eliminating suffering is often an ethical benefit to society, but there will always be a residual; trying to envision reality and life without suffering would be like trying to remove hydrogen from water and still call it water. Any philosophy, religion, or political theory worth its salt understands this.
Nonetheless, the Sisyphean task of any society is to relieve suffering. Reducing murders on both sides of the law, controlling gun violence, making schools safer — these are all crucial concepts, and shouldn’t be ignored. Unfortunately, nothing solves everything, because at the end of the day, we’re all just people, and failure is embedded in our DNA. Despite good intentions, people disagree on the solutions to suffering, and fight like cats and dogs as a result.
Line of Fire, a new Australian thriller, either understands this or unintentionally expresses it through its depiction of a school shooting, the police officer who failed to stop it, and the media that usually just makes everything worse.
Cops, Cowardice, and Mass Shootings
Line of Fire follows Samantha Romans (played by Nadine Garner) after a school shooting which claimed the life of her son. She stays back while it happens, calling for back-up, and fails to risk her life to stop it. This obviously echoes the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. There, the shooter spent 40 minutes murdering 19 children and two teachers, while a large group of police waited outside. The kids’ parents were held back, begging the police to go in and stop the sole killer with the massive artillery, bulletproof vests, and manpower of the police force. They didn’t.
The result? Headlines like “Why Uvalde Cops Were Too Cowardly to Charge a Mass Shooter” from The American Prospect. Then, of course, there was Scot Peterson, the deputy officer who did nothing at all during the Parkland shootings where 17 people died in a high school. The Washington Post headline after that was, “Is cowardice a crime? Scot Peterson’s failure leaves us with complicated questions.” And on and on.
Related: Elephant: How Gus Van Sant’s Film Captures the Pain of a School Shooting
It’s February 8th, 2023, and there have been 61 mass shootings in America so far this year. Nothing has been done about this, not really. Extremely weak and likely ineffective gun legislation was passed in the summer of 2022, the first time in three decades, but that won’t do much of anything. Everyone recognizes the suffering — people, children, are dying. Almost everyone has a solution, from mental health awareness and police reform to gun control and, as Ted Cruz brilliantly proposed, less doors. People hate guns, people love guns; people hate cops, people love cops. Ultimately, this results in people hating each other, something fueled by the media industrial complex.
Line of Fire introduces a blogger, a disgusting garbage person named Jamie Connard (Samantha Tolj), who views the school shooting and the disgraced cop as a careerist opportunity. She essentially stalks Officer Romans, and when she doesn’t get her exclusive, she trashes the cop on her website. While Romans goes insane, Connard gets pathetically excited about clearing 1,900 views on her blog. You can catch a glimpse of how this all escalates in the following exclusive clip:
Romans turns the tables and kidnaps Connard’s family, forcing her to risk her own life to try and save her kids and husband. Of course, Jamie isn’t a police officer who swore to serve and protect, who is paid to put her life on the line, who is equipped with a great deal of training and weaponry.
It’s not exactly a fair switcheroo, so instead of Line of Fire using this revenge plot as a way of empathizing with the police and showing the trauma they have to deal with, the film essentially switches from one extremely unlikable woman hurting and exploiting another, to the hurt person hurting her back. At the end of the day, the viewer kind of just doesn’t care about either side of the violence and who’s hurting who.
People Make Everything Worse in Line of Fire
And that’s the dark but honest takeaway from Line of Fire — that both sides are led astray by blind spots, willfully vindictive and mostly wrong, whether they hate cops or love them, whether they hate guns or love them. In their hatred of each other, both sides, like both women in Line of Fire, become monsters, only increasing the suffering of everyone around them.
Related: Best Dirty Cop Movies of All Time, Ranked
According to the usual metrics, this is probably not a ‘good’ movie. The acting is weak, every character is either awful and repugnant or empty, the dialogue is awkward, there are tons of wasted opportunities, and many scenes feel extremely stilted. It also has, almost without doubt, the worst use of music in recent cinematic history, which is kind of an achievement in itself.
And yet, despite all this (and maybe even because of some of it), Line of Fire provides a unique meditation on some of society’s major points of suffering — violence, mental illness, the police that deal with it, the media that reports on it, and the flawed humanity making it all happen. Nobody’s a winner or a hero here, no matter the side. In its own misanthropic way, Line of Fire echoes a Charles Bukowski poem from Bone Palace Ballet:
people diminish me;the longer I sit and listen to themthe more empty I feel but I don’t getthe idea that they feel empty, I feelthat they enjoy the sound from theirmouths. Nominated for Best Indie Feature at the 2022 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, Line of Fire is now available on VOD and digital platforms.
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