COPS

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by Stefan A. Lukacs

grade: 7

Fast paced, impeccable editing, an apparent daily routine that opens the feature immediately give us the idea of a thrilling action film, given also – and above all – the particular setting chosen by the director. And, in fact, there is plenty of action in Cops. And yet, this feature film is not just that.

Special mission

A particularly interesting name in Austrian ffilm scene is young Stefan A. Lukacs. After a series of short films that received numerous national and international awards over the years, the filmmaker finally debuted with his first feature film in 2018. In this year, in fact, Cops, which deals with certain themes previously explored in the short film Void (2012), was released. Here, too, the finger is pointed directly at certain dynamics and practices implemented by the local police. Here, too, we see actors Laurence Rupp and Anton Noori in the leading roles.

Winner of the Audience Award at the Diagonale 2018, Cops stages the adventures of young Christoph (Rupp), who since childhood has always dreamed of joining the WEGA, a special Austrian police force. A few days before taking his oath, the young man will be involved in a routine operation together with his team: inside a flat block, someone has complained about noise coming from a flat where a schizophrenic but apparently harmless man lives. Urged by his boss to break down the door, the young man will be forced to shoot the man when he threatens his superior with a knife. This event will, then, have serious consequences on the man’s life.

Fast paced, impeccable editing, an apparent daily routine that opens the feature immediately give us the idea of a thrilling action film, given also – and above all – the particular setting chosen by the director. And, in fact, there is plenty of action in Cops. Of action and violence, perfectly in line with what the author wanted to stage. Yet, this feature film is not just that. This feature film is much more and, alongside moments of strong adrenalin, it also traces a deep psychological investigation of its protagonists, without ever being inaccurate and without ever getting carried away by easy clichés.

Christoph is a young, sincere and passionate man who would do anything to do his job well and to fulfil his childhood dream. The ‘adult world’, however, is not always kind to the sensitive and inexperienced. And it is precisely when certain situations occur before one’s eyes that one begins to wonder what is right and what is wrong. Supposing the distinction between right and wrong is really so clear. Konstantin (Noori), Christoph’s team leader, for his part, has dedicated his entire life to the WEGA and although he has no qualms when necessary, he is always attentive to the boys in his team and acts, at times, like their father. Although he often makes unforgivable mistakes.

A skilful role reversal, never completely innocent characters and numerous unanswerable questions are therefore the cornerstones of this Cops, in which there is also a sharp criticism of the national police force and, in particular, of the methods adopted both in training and during missions. Just like in 2012 in the short film Void, where the finger was also pointed at the police and their many abuses.

Having always been interested in the subject, then, Stefan A. Lukacs has given life in Void first and in Cops later to a clever, harsh and often merciless portrait of a reality that we often hear about, but that few people know. There is no lack of highly dramatic moments in this feature film – see, above all, the numerous nightmares and flashbacks that torment the protagonist – just as important existential questions are often raised. And at the end of the game, nobody turns out to be totally innocent. And no one is the same as before. And if, as we approach the finale, we almost get the impression that events could take a much more banal and optimistic turn, we are immediately brought back down to earth. And reality, you know, can sometimes really hurt. Very badly. Is there, then, according to the director, any hope of redemption? Probably only rarely. And the desperate cry of a baby at the end of the feature film, in fact, speaks volumes on the subject.

Original title: Cops
Directed by: Stefan A. Lukacs
Country/year: Austria / 2018
Running time: 92’
Genre: drama, action
Cast: Laurence Rupp, Anton Noori, Maria Hofstätter, Roland Düringer, Anna Suk, Nico Chitta, Deniz Cooper, Aaron Friesz, Manfred Fuchs, Michael Fuith, Miriam Fussenegger, Gabriela Hegedüs, Ferdinand Keiblinger, Viktor Krüger, Philipp Lintner, Daniel Micheel, Alexandra Maria Nutz, Karl Rohner, Alfred Schibor, Julian Sharp, Dominic Marcus Singer, Angel Somov, Joe Toedtling, Markus Wildinger
Screenplay: Stefan A. Lukacs
Cinematography: Xiaosu Han, Andreas Thalhammer
Produced by: Golden Girls Filmproduktion

Info: the page of Cops on iMDb; the page of Cops on the website of the Austrian Film Commission