Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Glass Shield

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Glass Shield

Article excerpt

"The Glass Shield" deserves to be on everyone's Best Movies of the Year list. Charles Burnett is one of the most gifted and unconventional directors working today. Because Burnett is African-American and his films don't fit the stereotypes into which "black" movies are placed, even his widely praised "To Sleep With Anger" got limited distribution.

"The Glass Shield" is about J.J. Jonson (Michael Boatman), a naive, young African-American cop assigned to a Los Angeles County Sheriff's station. Employing a minimum of violence and avoiding four-letter words, it is quite unlike the cops-and-crime movies we're used to. Nonideological, it's also politically serious: After seeing it, you may be more worried about your local police department than the militia movement -- or, better yet, wonder about the connection between them.

"The Glass Shield" begins with comic-book panels that reveal J.J.'s expectations: After a shootout in which he is the hero, he is hailed by his colleagues. "You proved yourself," the cartoon balloon says. "Your shield is made of gold."

The reality, of course, is quite different: There is everyday racism, indifference and veiled contempt. But J.J. only works harder, holding on to his belief that this will insure his rise in the department. Burnett is not unsympathetic, but also looks at him critically: We observe his sexism, for example, and note the negatiye side of his desire for acceptance.

Burnett's script, based on the true story of a Los Angeles deputy, exposes the corruption in a particular station. …

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