In Stefano Sollima’s A. C. A. B. all cops are bastards. Skinheads who tattoo it on the backs of their necks use it as a call to war with the police and the riot police wear the reputation like a of badge of honor.
“Celerino, figlio di puttana”, they whistle on the way to an assignment. “Riot police, son of a bitch”. They know what people think of them and they know what they are, what they have to be, to get their jobs done. Anybody who has ever watched a TV cop show knows how this story goes, but does A.C.A.B. have anything new to say in the whole bad cop/bad cop genre?
The movie begins in a very slick way, with The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” setting the tone as the riot police get ready for their daily battle with illegal immigrants, striking workers, and football hooligans, but the gears are quickly switched. Now we’re out of the police station and in the middle of these guys’ lives, all troubled and on the verge of various forms of disaster.
A.C.A.B. is a cop movie without heroes or villains and without answers to any of the questions that you already know it’s going to ask. What does the violence that a guy in the riot police faces every day do to change him; how can we reasonably expect it to change the way he behaves in his personal life? Do we send him into the mayhem unprepared, without even a modicum of the things he’ll need to succeed? Do we set them up to fail and then punish them when they try to pull their asses out of the fire?
A.C.A.B. is a guy movie, even with all the relationshipy stuff mixed in with the riots, and there are plenty of good-looking actors, like Pierfrancesco Favino and Filippo Nigro for those of us that like that kind of thing. It’s good, but it could have been better, and if I hadn’t just watched the French Polisse, I might not be saying this. Polisse did it better.
In Maïwenn’s 2011 Polisse the cops are part of the juvenile division and aren’t cracking hooligan’s heads open with night sticks, but the work is intense and it still affects the cops at work and at home. It’s grittier, the relationships more complicated and the emotions more intense.
A.C.A.B. is an entertaining film that could have been a great one, minus the clichés, like a son that is on the bad guys’ side and wives that can’t stand the guys working all the time. It took a couple of stabs at going deeper with references to the 2001 G8 Summit and the guilt and uncertainty police still feel about it, but it never really made the connection with the job and the problems that the men experience in their day-to-day lives beyond the one we make because we’ve seen this scenario so many times in other movies and TV shows.
Director: Stefano Sollima
Writers: Carlo Bonini (book), Daniele Cesarano (screenplay)
Stars: Pierfrancesco Favino, Filippo Nigro and Marco Giallini
DVD PAL / Zone 2 with English subtitles