A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Body Cam is an intense crime thriller/street justice fantasy with a supernatural horror twist. The main character is Renee (Mary J. Blige), a police officer who's mourning the death of her young son, who's shown drowning. There's also a heartrending scene of unfathomable violence on a teen. There's some sort of ghostly cop killer on the loose, and the victims' bodies are ravaged, impaled, and gutted: It's bloody and gory. You can also expect gun violence and a suicide. Characters drink (at least once to excess) and swear ("s--t," "f--k," and more). And Renee is far from perfect: She's returning to work from suspension after slapping a civilian, and she constantly steps outside protocols of police work. Nat Wolff co-stars.
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What's the story?
In BODY CAM, on the day that Renee (Mary J. Blige) returns to active duty with the Swinton Police Department, her former partner is brutally murdered, without a trace of evidence. As more police deaths occur, Renee begins to believe that she's the only cop who can see the police footage and starts following her own leads to find the killer.
Is it any good?
Malik Vitthal's first studio film isn't technically good, but some elements are impressive, and it's definitely gripping. The story is ultimately predictable, but the journey will keep you guessing. Your brain is thrown off of what you've come to expect. Doubt about the police force is ignited from the get-go: Are they unfairly treated by the community, or is the community unfairly treated by the cops? The rhythmic beat of windshield wipers as a score is a smart way to understand the visceral nervousness of potential danger that a police officer feels with every traffic stop. You'll have settled into watching a crime drama unfold by the time it turns into a scary movie, and then your brain will react: All bets are off! A creepy shadow skates through moments that scream "impending doom." It can't be human -- or can it? And with Renee still recovering from a tragedy when she's re-traumatized, you silently wonder whether the stress is too great: Is she an unreliable narrator?
This isn't a film meant to be watched silently. Rather, Body Cam is a shout-at-the-screen experience: "Watch out!" "Look behind you!" "Don't go in the BASEMENT!" And that may be where the genre mashup doesn't quite work. In a slasher film, we're used to teenagers doing dumb things that will inevitably lead to their death. But Renee isn't dumb: She's a cop, she's smart, and she should know better. In one sense, the story plays into a fearlessness on her part, but there are quite a few leaps we have to take, and that ends up feeling like bad writing. While Blige has a solid acting resume and was magnificent in Mudbound, this is the first movie she's carried alone -- and it exposes her acting weaknesses. As a singer, she should know that audiences like a range, not just one note. Bottom line? Body Cam could definitely be better, but by the end sequences, you won't be shouting at the screen in fear, but more likely with satisfaction. It's the kind of movie where you turn to the person next to you and say, "That movie wasn't good ... but it was GOOD!"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Body Cam addresses police brutality. It's often connected to racial targeting. Does the movie connect those dots?
How does the movie blend film genres? Do you think that throws viewers off?
Do you think the film's graphic violence is necessary to tell its story? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
How does Renee demonstrate perseverance, courage, and curiosity? Why are these essential traits for a police officer? Why are these important traits for anyone? Does that mean she's an admirable character/role model? Why or why not?
- On DVD or streaming: May 19, 2020
- Cast: Mary J. Blige, Nat Wolff, Anika Noni Rose
- Director: Malik Vitthal
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: bloody violence, grisly images, and language throughout
- Last updated: July 9, 2020
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