EQUAL STANDARD movie poster | ©2020 C.O.D.

EQUAL STANDARD movie poster | ©2020 C.O.D.

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Tobias Truvillion, Syleena Johnson, Chris Kerson, Brad Fleischer, Rob Minutoli, Ice-T, Robert Clohessy
Writer: Taheim Bryan
Director: Brendan Kyle Cochrane
Distributor: C.O.D.
Release Date (streaming on demand at equalstandardmovie.com): May 14, 2020

 EQUAL STANDARD stakes a claim in the Wild West of movie distribution during Covid-19 lockdown by making itself available at equalstandardmovie.com for $9.99. For big-city viewers, this is a decent price, especially if there’s more than one viewer.

The plot and intended scope of EQUAL STANDARD might be better served by an HBO miniseries. NYPD Detective Chris Jones (Tobias Truvillion) and his wife, NYPD Sergeant Jackie Jones (Syleena Johnson), are happy with their marriage, their young daughter, and their careers. The Joneses are black, but while they are concerned about racism, it doesn’t seem to be a major factor when they’re on the job.

One night, Chris is hanging out with a friend. They are confronted by two white plainclothes detectives. Although Chris tries to de-escalate what shouldn’t be a situation in the first place, stating that he is a cop and that he wants to get his i.d., Detective Peter McKenzie (Rob Minutoli) draws his gun and fires. Wounded, Chris shoots back and kills the other detective.

McKenzie’s survivors include an older brother, Kevin (Chris Kerson), who may or may not be sincere in his desire to get to the bottom of what happened, and a hothead younger brother, Josh (Brad Fleischer), who has his mind made up.

Ironically, at the same time all of this is happening, two of the city’s biggest gangs, the Bloods and the Crips, are trying to work out a truce. Both their members and ordinary civilians are angry over unjustified police shootings.

This is a lot to work with, and the screenplay by Taheim Bryan gives everyone their due. No one group is fully good or evil, though individual characters are – the Joneses are as upstanding as people get, and there’s a white church official who has enrobed Klansmen photos on the walls. The problem is that the dialogue is often very on-the-nose, as if people are speaking in commentaries rather than in conversations.

The actual steps of Chris’s case as it moves through the system are gratifyingly low-key, played for authenticity rather than melodrama. On the one hand, this gives EQUAL STANDARD a measure of breathing room and credibility. On the other hand, it seems like the film is missing some opportunities to explore what would seem to be the core of its premise, which is how a case like this would play out among the rank and file. Chris has a couple of encounters, positive and negative, with fellow law enforcement, but we never get a sense that the department and/or the city are really on edge from this.

Director Brendan Kyle Cochrane gets a lot out of the New York environments, and goes with a naturalistic approach to the material. Unfortunately, the musical score is often overpowering.

Performances vary in quality. Truvillion is excellent as Chris, the epitome of what we all hope police detectives are really like, and Kerson is convincing as the troubled man looking into his sibling’s death. Ice-T, one of EQUAL STANDARD’s executive producers, has authority and power in a smallish role as a gang leader.

EQUAL STANDARD has worthy subject matter, but it feels like it could use more running time and better verbiage to explore its themes with greater impact.

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