Comedy is always going to be a very subjective thing. What one critic finds to be golden, another will find to be trash. Trying to gauge what audiences will find funny can be a minefield, and this is the reason that stand-up comedians will spend months refining the same jokes over and over again. Within film, writers are rarely given the opportunity to test their craft repeatedly before releasing their product. When mixing other genres inside of this medium, the minefield can become even more hazardous. Shots Fired turns out to be a dangerous mix of crime-film bravado, along with silly buddy-cop humor. While this mix likely does not sound all that appealing, as we have seen this combination done poorly many times in the past, Shots Fired manages to create a fairly unique voice in the midst of this genre-film concoction. Featuring a story that is macho enough to appeal to those looking for something with a street mentality, but witty enough to reach a larger audience, Shots Fired proves to be one of the more interesting independent productions of this style that I have come across.
The plot within Shots Fired generally focuses on two detectives who are polar opposites in nearly every regard. Detective Kevin Payne is a by-the-books officer who has found himself in a great deal of trouble. He has caused the city a large amount of money, this is due to a high amount of property damage caused by his action-oriented focus on his work. His new partner, Marcus Banks, is quite the opposite. He smokes weed, he drinks on the job, and he is more criminal than he is police officer. He too is facing the chopping block, because his actions are constantly getting his captain, who also happens to be his uncle, into deep trouble. As these two learn to work with each other, they find themselves embroiled in a massive conspiracy that will shock the system in a big way.
Sometimes a movie can find its tone during its very earliest opening minutes. Such scenes can make or break a movie, and in the case of Shots Fired, it enforces every expectation that the audience will develop for the movie over the course of its runtime. The film opens up by introducing its humorous nature and the tough guy sensibilities that I have mentioned so far, but it also showcases a knack for exploitation as well. With pun duly intended, the film opens with a bang. Multiple types of banging, in fact. The start of the movie introduces us to Marcus and his persona as a rebellious non-cop of sorts. He is given the simple task of going undercover in a brothel and paying for sex from one of the girls. As he is introduced to the prostitutes, who he scoffs at for asking five hundred dollars for their fee (despite this angering all of his fellow officers listening to his conversation in the police van outside), the movie shows off some nudity and also displays some very excellent casting. The beautiful women showcased are enough to elicit drooling, honestly. Thankfully, the filmmakers point out that these are high-class prostitutes, because not one of these ladies appears to be an everyday street walker that one might see on an episode of COPS. As the scene plays out, we are shown some full-frontal nudity and after the brothel is raided by a group of would-be robbers, the movie even shows us a heavy deal of violence. In terms of introductory scenes, this entire sequence perfectly demonstrates all of the best elements that will be expounded upon throughout the movie, and it also does a nice job of introducing our main plot.
The use of comedy is certainly something that I did not expect to encounter in this movie. Normally, in these low budget gangster titles, the filmmakers are all bravado and unwilling to show any form of weakness. Although there’s certainly a decent amount of "hood shit" to be found in Shots Fired, there is also a legitimate attempt to keep things somewhat light. Unfortunately, the movie does delve into some very cliche territories with its script, and even if the comedy is amazing, a derivative plot is a hard thing to forgive. The fact that we are watching a goofy "bad" cop being partnered up with a strict by-the-books detective doesn’t speak volumes about the film and its creativity. This is essentially something that audiences have learned to expect from almost every buddy cop movie on the market. The basic premise is different enough due to the brand of humor employed (and the character traits that are certainly unique for both of the detectives that our story focuses on), but it still owes a great deal of debt to movies like Lethal Weapon and even 48 Hours.
The sound quality widely varies during the course of the movie, and this turns out to be one of the few annoying technical glitches I found over the course of the movie. There are scenes where inexplicable noises comes from offscreen and completely drown out the dialogue, and the sound level between scenes can be very erratic. Whole scenes are all but lost due to the low sound mix, with only vague shouting somehow standing out for the audience to hear and figure out what is going on in the plot. Also, amongst the other technical issues that the movie has, the CGI gunfire can be a bit of a problem. As someone who reviews many movies that use CG gunfire, I have learned to tune this out, but I know that not every viewer will have the same reaction. It is understandable that this sort of production couldn’t afford to wreck sets with bulletholes, nor could they afford to fire off rounds of blank ammunition, but the effects do cheapen the movie a bit. If anything, I am impressed that the filmmakers were able to make the few really solid digital FX scenes in the movie work as well as they did. In the first sequence of the movie, the previously mentioned scene involving the brothel, there is a gunshot to the head that is a prime example of what I am talking about. The CG, based upon the numerous gunshot effects throughout the course of the movie, probably shouldn’t have worked, but it somehow came off as being very impressive. It’s likely a combination of the fast editing and some diligent animating, but it shows that these filmmakers are likely to improve even more as they go along.
Shots Fired certainly has some issues, I won’t deny this fact. There are some pacing issues to be found, some of the comedy will fall flat depending on the viewer, and the obvious low budget may turn some viewers off. However, there is a great deal of talent to be explored here, and I don’t think it is a waste of any viewers time. This is a fun movie, and if you’re given the opportunity to view it, it is worth giving a shot. You can read more about the film at the official Facebook page: