Policing in America is broken. There’s no two ways about it; when black men and women are gunned down in the streets and in their homes and the police who kill them face little to no consequence, something is broken. A Shot Through The Wall seems keen to take on at least some of that brokenness in telling the story of a young Asian American police officer who accidentally discharges his weapon and kills a young black man on the other side of a wall.
Mike Tan (Kenny Leu) , a rookie cop with a rookie partner, question a group of young black men on the street for no reason at all, but when one of them bolts they give chase. Ending up in an apartment building and racing around the halls, when the suspect turns a corner Mike draws his gun and in that moment it goes off. The bullet goes through a wall and kills a young man.
Mike’s story becomes complicated immediately. The death was an accident, but it’s another black man killed by the NYPD. He feels guilt, but it was also an accident. His family, not supportive of his career choice in the first place, are caught in the middle of the media circus that sets up around him.
His father (the always great Tzi Ma) makes it clear that he bears responsibility, his mother (Fiona Fu) berates him for his career choices in the first place. His fiancé Candace (played by Ciara Renée), an African American woman herself wants to stay by his side but fears being tokenized as the reason Mike couldn’t possibly be racist (and, it turns out, with good reason).
The first half of the film sees Mike dealing with the initial fallout of the incident, as well as the NYPD and police union buckling under media pressure and hanging him out to dry. This section is mostly good, with everyone doing a good job of highlighting and speaking about the issues of race and policing in America. The film stumbles in the second half though not only because it becomes confused about what it wants to say about the situation and how it wants us to feel, but because Mike is faced with a series of difficult choices and in every instance makes the worst possible one, and is kind of a dick about it.
In a year that has seen #BlackLivesMatter protests last for months on end, and police responding with riots and tear gas, A Shot Through The Wall feels like a bit of a misstep. Even considering that it is based on actual events, it’s hard not to think that taking a closer look at a police homicide might have been a better choice than an act of negligence, even if that’s a harder story to tell (though, it isn’t).
It isn’t a bad film, but it’s not the film we need right now and feels like a missed opportunity as a result.
A Shot Through The Wall is streaming as part of the Whistler Film Festival until December 31st.