There was a bit of expectation on my part for this film. While I lived in Seattle, I used to read The Stranger's Police Beat written by Charles Mudede on a weekly basis; in it he takes Seattle's weirdest police cases and turns them into an artistic forum, often appreciating the writing of the officer's reports. It's a very funny and surreal read. I heard about them making the film, and thought they could make a fantastic little film out of it; at least something the folks of Seattle could enjoy. When they had the star ride down my street one day, on the back truck-trailer, I was even more excited.
We left Seattle before the film was finished, and it had faded in my memory. It was sparked a bit, when I saw it was premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. But I didn't read anything about it after that, it didn't have any buzz about it, and again it faded. It took over three years to find its way to video, but when I saw it on Netflix, I immediately had to see it. I feel a connection with any Seattle filmmaker (since it's where I learned how to make films) and I wanted the best for director Robinson Devor; who also did the documentary Zoo which received a lot more attention, because it's a film about a guy getting killed by having sex with a horse, which I haven't seen it yet.
Unfortunately after watching Police Beat, I can understand why it's quickly fading into obscurity. It's beautifully filmed, I don't think I've ever seen Seattle better captured in a movie; they shot all over the city, finding hidden away locations, almost consciously keeping the Space Needle out of frame, because any Hollywood movie would exclusively feature it. But as a former Seattleite, the layout of the film often doesn't make sense; the main character of the film is a bike cop, who would probably have at most a few mile radius, but they have him riding all over the city, even down to the airport, a 30 minute car ride. So that kept pulling me out of the film.
But that's not the biggest problem with the film, and it won't be a problem for anyone besides people from Seattle. The problem is it's an almost inaccessible film. I believe that art is personal, the first person you create art for is yourself, if you're not pleasing yourself, you probably won't please anyone else. The makers of Police Beat, are probably very pleased with what they've created, and I'm happy for them; but it's a artistic-piece that is too personal. Film is a medium that demands an audience; which I'm sure there is, it's just very limited; basically you have to appreciate meditative experimental films.
There is no real plot to Police Beat; there's a bit of drive in the main character Z, who is constantly wondering what happened to his girlfriend who ran off on a camping trip with her ex-boyfriend. He has a constant internal monologue, in an African language with subtitles, obsessing about her and what she may be doing. He rides all over the city, dealing with different people and their problems; a few of them are funny or interesting, which relieves some of the boredom, but they left out a lot of the flavor from the original column. Z has a partner, who has a weird relationship with a junkie-hooker; which lands him in some trouble. But ulitimately the film goes nowhere, and at just over 90 minutes, it feels like a lifetime, moving at a glacial pace.
If you appreciate obscure artistic films, Police Beat is well enough made that I believe it will find a home somewhere. It simply wasn't for me, way too out there; on a completely different wavelength than my brain operates. That may be partially my fault, as this is nowhere near the movie I envisioned when I first heard about it. I wish Devor and Mudede the best of luck with their further projects, but I don't think I'm their audience. - Grade: D