Amazon Prime’s Small Axe series is back once again to remind us how terrible the police system is now by reaching back a few decades. This time around, we have a direct commentary of the police through the film Red, White and Blue.
The film tells the true story of Leroy Logan (John Boyega), a black man who joined the London Metropolitan Police Force in 1983. Although he already worked as a forensic scientist, he sought to reform what he saw as a broken system, and the film does little to prove him or the audience wrong.
The film literally opens with Leroy as a student being profiled by the police. In addition, we see his father Ken Logan (Steve Toussaint) being assaulted by officers over a traffic dispute. Finally, Leroy himself gets in a dispute with white officer PC Beck (Calan Callaghan) over the use of excessive force on black citizens with the latter shouting it’s “us or them.”
PC Beck: Get up! Move!
PC: I’ve told you! What did I tell you? Fucking black cunt!
PC Beck: You got a problem?
Leroy: Yeah I do. Excessive force is not on.
PC Beck: Listen. Out there it is us or them. You whistle, we come. That’s how it works. So you can stand there playin’ community liaison, or you can piss off and let us do our job. ‘Cause if you can’t learn how it works, then the last thing you’ll feel is some fucker sticking a knife in your back.
The scenario doesn’t get better when Leroy’s forced to chase and apprehend a suspect with no backup because the police are terrible. However, the police of 1983 Britain have little to nothing to do with 2020 America or 2020 London for that matter. Or at least, common sense should dictate that.
Sadly, that’s not the view of many reviewers or even the film’s star John Boyega for that matter. In an interview, he described the film saying:
It’s also very, very strange, because now you’re probably looking at scenes and thinking, “Well, that kind of looks too close to what’s happening in reality.” And it’s like, “I cannot believe now that reality is that dramatic.” So it’s an interesting, interesting thing.
It’s no surprise Boyega would see things this way, considering he’s been very vocal about supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and decrying racism in Hollywood. In his defense, plenty of reviewers agreed with him about the film.
IGN insisted that “The historical struggles in Small Axe are far from over” while GQ commented, “Once again, [defeat]’s a feeling I’m sure many black viewers will be able to relate to, especially after the events of 2020.“ IndieWire was a bit more optimistic writing, “With the poignance of its climactic toast, 'Red, White and Blue' suggests that nobody can permanently fix a system designed to be broken, but it’s worth the struggle anyway.”
The police weren’t perfect in 1983, and the police aren’t perfect now. But reaching back over three decades to make a commentary on today is not only desperate but wrong.