Christoph (Laurence Rupp), called Burschi (“little boy”), has finally achieved what he has always dreamed of: he is training with the WEGA, Austria’s police special forces unit, under Konstantin Blago (Anton Noori), his big idol. His father Heinz (Roland Düringer) who is also a cop, but turned away from his career towards a more social role in the force sees Christoph’s dream with a critical eye. On a seemingly routine call Christoph ends up shooting a mentally ill man (Michael Fuith) who attacked. Celebrated as a hero by his squad and criticized by the public, Christoph starts to struggle with the events and his role in them.
I was pretty impressed by Cops as it takes a deep dive into police culture – which also means looking very sharply at masculinity. It’s sociological analysis in movie form and one I had yet to see from an Austrian perspective. Istvan handles it very well.
Cops may not have the most original plot. But that’s not the point of the film anyway. The point is its look at the police as a social system that builds on the concept of toxic masculinity so much that they can’t be separated from each other. If you want a career, you have to fit into this very narrow box and – as is shown with Heinz – if you deviate even slightly from it, you will not have a career anymore and most of your colleagues, even your own son, will look down on you.
It’s an intense look at that dynamic that is inextricably linked to violence, both because it’s the police and because of toxic masculinity. Istvan chose to tell the story from the police’ perspective which thankfully doesn’t lead to glorification of violence in this case, but allows him to show the cracks in the system: the way Christoph crumbles but cannot face his PTSD. How much work it is for all men to uphold the system, how even the slightest weakness shown can bring them down. How they pretty much all struggle with it but don’t really have an out.
The movie’s analysis is astute and insightful. What is more, it doesn’t lose sight of its characters either: They are treated with respect without excusing their actions and are taken seriously as men as well as just people.
Every once in a while, the film may get a little too on the nose, a little too blatant, but considering that this is not really a discussion that’s been happening at all in Austria, at least not a big scale, I think the movie provides a good place to start.
Summarizing: Really good.