Eager rookie J.J. Johnson (Michael Boatman) is the only black officer in a Los Angeles sheriffs' substation. He soon comes up against ingrained racism, corruption, and violence on the force as he tries to fit in. A young ... more »black man (Ice Cube) is pulled in as a murder suspect after a wealthy man's wife is shot in a botched armed robbery. Boatman and Deputy Fields (Lori Petty) soon realize that the facts in the case don't add up and dig a bit deeper. They soon find a maze of deceit that extends upward from the sheriffs to L.A. city government. Though slow and rather convoluted, this film has an absorbing story worthy of Joseph Wambaugh and an interesting cast to hold viewers' attention. Blaxploitation vet Bernie Casey excels as Ice Cube's defense attorney, and Boatman is fine as the wide-eyed Johnson. Director Charles Burnett infuses a sense of dread and foreboding into sunny Los Angeles locations and well-lit convenience stores that turns the rules of dimly lit thrillers upside down. He also does a fair job of capturing the macho-cowboy mentality of the all-white sheriffs, complete with styled hair and heavy mustaches. Considering the timely subject matter, this film could have easily become heavy-handed cop opera, but the character development and performances are strong enough to lift it above the level of invective. After all, it's a scenario that's all too believable in light of late-1990s events. --Jerry Renshaw« less
"Charles Burnett is one of America's most underrated filmmakers working today. Unlike his African-American contemporary, Spike Lee, he is not an outspoken personality in his own right, preferring to let the work speak for itself. In many respects, his films are self-aware in terms of social conscience as John Sayles' own work. As a result, Burnett also finds it hard to get his movies widely distributed. The Glass Shield was his attempt to reach a wider audience by having Miramax distribute it. Sadly, like Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, it was subjected to the same lackluster release by Miramax head honcho, Harvey Weinstein and promptly disappeared.
Stylistically, Burnett is not as in-your-face as Spike Lee, preferring to let the content and the characters deliver his message. That's not to say his films don't have their own style-The Glass Shield is a well-shot movie (adopting a colour scheme that reflects Johnson's comic book fantasies)-it just doesn't cause unnecessary attention to itself.
There is an audio commentary by writer/director Charles Burnett and composer Stephen James Taylor. Burnett points out that the cops are conditioned not to trust anyone before they are sent out on patrol and this often explains their hostile behaviour on the streets. This is an intelligent, conversational track with lots of excellent observations by both men with some good stories told by Burnett.
"A Conversation with Charles Burnett" is a featurette that alternates between clips from the movie and Burnett talking.
"Film Scoring with Stephen James Taylor" explores this composer's creative process. He drew from all kinds of musical genres with Negro spiritual melodies as the score's heart. He also talks about the origins of key musical cues from the movie.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer."
A cop movie anyone could love
SBLove99 | New Orleans, La. | 07/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the most acurate portrayals of american police departments in the good ole USA. A good story told from a real perspective. Intense drama,lying racist cops,and brilliant African-American & Latino lawyers. The story follows two naive young rookie cops, a black male and a white female, who learn a hard lesson about trying to join an all white male police department they really don't belong in. The only other accurate potrayal of dirty cops on film, that I know of is "Dark Blue" with Kurt Russell. Check it out."
SBLove99 | 11/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie was pretty good. I started watchin this movie with my friends and they said it was a LA CONFIDENTIAL ripoff. I think that it wasn't and i think it was awesome."
Oldsmobile91, "The Glass Shield"
Matthew Kocik | Parkerford, Pa. USA | 11/02/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie was done very well, Michael Boatman, Lori Petty, Ice Cube all acted the way they should for there parts. But then you have mean Michael Ironside, who wants to put everyone through hell in the sheriff's department. I thought that Elliott Gould was the only wimp in this movie, he's the one who did not act real well in this film. But timely look at racism and corruption in the sheriff's department as seen through the eyes of African American rookie J.J. Johnson (Boatman). He realizes his own department is framing a black man (Ice Cube) for a murder he did not commit. Lori Petty who becomes Johnson's only ally on the force. "THIS IS A MUST SEE FILM""
Great Little Gem
SBLove99 | 03/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I liked this modest budget cop thriller movie very much. A great ensemble cast was assembled with well known and recognizable actors (including Ice Cube, Lori Petty, Michael Boatman, Michael Ironside, M. Emmett Walsh, Elliot Gould) for reportedly very little money. The production values are also top notch for a low budget film. The Director, Charles Burnett, a MacArthur "Genius" Grant award winner and the writer-director of the acclaimed "To Sleep With Anger", apparently attracted top talent and key crew people for this film. Although there are no big, expensive stunts, there is plenty of suspense and drama. The film is supposed to be based upon true events and stories, making it more realistic and compelling.I highly recommend this film."