The Glass Shield

Ambition is something to respect in an artist, but Charles Burnett’s police-corruption drama The Glass Shield is such a maladroit piece of filmmaking that its weighty themes and sclerotic tangle of a plot end up making it a trial to sit through. The moment that J.J. (Michael Boatman), an African-American rookie cop, reports to work at a California sheriff’s bureau, it’s clear that Burnett is too busy stacking decks to stage a convincing dramatic encounter. The white officers are all scowling nasties (they might as well be wearing devil’s horns), and J.J.’s naiveté is so exaggerated he seems like the protagonist of a driver’s-ed training film. The story revolves around an innocent man (Ice Cube) who gets arrested for the crime of being young, arrogant, and black and is then railroaded on a bogus murder charge. Ice Cube holds the screen with his depressive fury, but when it comes to illustrating the nuts and bolts of injustice, Burnett is like a muckraking Ed Wood — his film lacks even the logic of its own conspiracy theories. D

The Glass Shield
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