A pair of long-time police partners, Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn) make a bust on a Mexican drug runner. Caught on tape using excessive force during the arrest, they are suspended without pay for 6 weeks by their boss, Lieutenant Calvert (Don Johnson).
Ridgeman is married, his wife Melanie (Laurie Holden), is an ex-cop suffering from MS, and their teenage daughter is regularly harassed in the poor neighbourhood where they live, the only place he can afford on his cop wages.
For similar financial reasons, Lurasetti is reluctant to propose to his girlfriend, worried that he can’t offer her a better life and she will decline his offer of marriage.
Ridgeman is a 33 year veteran of the force, approaching 60, and still the same rank as he was when he joined. Without his badge and gun he is now a civilian, and pushed to his limits, he elicits a tip from an associate to find a suitable high value “preferably from out of town” target to rob.
Lurasetti reluctantly agrees to take part and the pair stake out this target, unsure of the nature of the possible bounty. It could be drugs, it could be cash, whatever it is, it represents a much needed payday for the pair. Ridgeman reasons that as a cop he did good honest work, for a measly pay packet, and because their Mexican arrest “wasn’t done politely” he faces an uncertain future. When Lurasetti counters that the duo have had many opportunities to rip off a stash of cash before, his partner counters “Not as civilians”. It’s a reasonable response that illustrates Ridgeman’s ethics, that as a cop he aimed to do the right thing, but now that the force has turned its back on him for doing his job (albeit too vigorously), he is free to live by a different code.
Add to the mix young black man Henry Johns (Tory Kittles), fresh out of prison and keen to provide for his mother and disabled brother who becomes entangled in the affair as he agrees to work as a hired gun for the mysterious target.
As the suspended cops continue their stake out, the target leads them on a long drive into the financial district downtown where the criminals carry out a violent robbery. Ridgeman & Lurasetti continue to tail the bad guys to a remote abandoned industrial area where the final act of the film takes place.
Writer/Director S. Craig Zahler has crafted an intriguing original cops and robbers flick with highly effective twists and turns making it difficult to guess where the story will head next. His use of light and shade, as the partners banter on the stake-out conquered with the graphic violence of the bank robbers makes this a really gripping piece of cinema.
It starts slow and builds to an explosive finale. With flourishes of The Departed, The Town, Point Break, Dog Day Afternoon and even Die Hard, with tight writing and inventive direction I associate with Tarantino, Zahler has made an impressive third feature film.
3 & 1/2 Stars “An Enthralling Cops & Robbers Thriller”