The Good

A solid attempt at telling a story about black and white relations as well as day to day police business.

The Bad

Splattering Ice Cube’s face on the cover when he’s barely in the movie. A convoluted story that eventually gets lost within itself.

Not unlike the much better Dark Blue, The Glass Shield deals with police corruption. This film centers around Johnny Johnson (Michael Boatman), a young police officer who teams up with Deborah Fields (Lori Petty) when they both uncover corruption in their police department. At the heart of this is Teddy Woods (Ice Cube; who is in the movie for 15 minutes if he’s lucky!) who has been framed to cover up some convoluted conspiracy the police, judges and local government are all involved in. Honestly, I became so confused while I was watching this film that I just decided to sit back and not try and make sense of it. Sadly, once I did this, the movie sort of came into focus but it was still so uneven that I didn’t fully comprehend the ending, which was literally written out for me on the screen!!

Features

Commentary Track

If left alone it seems that director Charles Burnett would have just watched his film and only spoke sparingly. Thank goodness he had the film’s composer Stephen James Taylor along for the ride to help/coach him through. When Burnett discussed the film, namely talking about things he wondered if he should have done(and when he spoke about going on “ride alongs” with the police and his admiration for Bernie Casey), I feel that he gave a lot of interesting insights. Yet, there were too many moments (like the film itself) where it didn’t seem like he knew what he wanted to say. In those instances, I reached for the “fast forward” button.

A Conversation with Charles Burnett and Film Scoring with Stephen James Taylor

If you for some reason can only view either the commentary or this conversation, bypass the commentary and just watch “A Conversation with Charles Burnett.” This is a thumbnail sketch of a lot of the things he talks about on the commentary track, but he just seems fresher here and it has been edited to give you all the information that you really need on the making of The Glass Shield. Lastly, “Film Scoring with Stephen James Taylor” was the best of the “Bonus Materials.” He talks about how for the score of this movie he drew a lot from jazz, blues and negro spirituals. Taylor also shows us his process whereby we get to see how “the world” is his instrument, and he’ll make music with anything he can get his hands on.

Video

1.85:1 - Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions. This movie is a bit overlit. Maybe that was what the director was going for, but all this seemed to do was call attention to the fact that the actors on the screen were indeed acting. Also, as the star of the movie, I just didn’t think that Michael Boatman was able to pull this off. He seemed too ahead of himself and almost appeared to “react” before he was given a reason. I could get really picky and mention the “Sheriff” stickers that were hanging off of some of the police cars, but maybe they were meant to be that way?

Audio

Dolby Digital Stereo Sound. Spanish Language track. As this movie was made in 1994, I wish that it would have had more music from that time. That was one place where Dark Blue really grabbed me into the story immediately. The soundtrack. This isn’t to say that Stephen James Taylor hasn’t done good work here, I just would have probably gotten “into” this film a lot easier if I would have heard some music to take me back to that time period. That said, other than having a few moments where I couldn’t fully understand what the characters were saying (most likely my hearing problem, not the fault of the this DVD), everything sounded like it was in it’s audio order.

Package

With a large picture of Ice Cube on the front cover it was reasonable to assume that he was the star. Then I watched the trailer for this movie before I saw the film and I realized he wasn’t. The person with the smallest picture on the cover (Mr. Boatman) was really the person carrying the film. They make good use of the red and blue lights of the police car here. The back features a small picture of Ice Cube and an even smaller picture of Lori Petty. There is a description of the movie (which basically admits that Ice Cube isn’t the star), a “Bonus Features” listing, a cast list and a small technical specs listing. On the whole I think this cover looks good, even though it’s a bit of a bait and switch.

Final Word

Ice Cube is featured on the front cover of this movie and he’s not even the star of it. Michael Boatman and Lori Petty are (and they are credited as such), but if I was watching this movie just to see Ice Cube I would feel totally ripped off. I guess what really saddened me about this film was that it started off so well. I really thought that it was going to deal intelligently with race relations between blacks and whites. Sadly, director Charles Burnett had another agenda and this movie ended up being very both “awful” and “okay” at the same time. This seems to be his style as I felt the same way after screening one of his earlier films, To Sleep With Anger.

The Glass Shield opens good and ends alright but everything in the middle left me wanting as a viewer.

The Glass Shield was released September 16, 1994.