Equal Standard was originally released to streaming platforms around this time last year and didn’t get much notice. However, given the headlines we’ve seen in the past several months, this drama about police shootings, racism and community relations has been given a second chance with a limited theatrical release and home video relaunch. Is it worthy of re-release, or should it have stayed forgotten?
Chris Jones (Tobias Truvillion, Holiday Heist) and his wife, Jackie (Syleena Johnson) are both NYC cops. She’s been having nightmares about something happening to her husband. And unfortunately, it does. One night, while off duty and with a friend, he’s approached by two white cops who demand to see ID. When he says he’s going to get it from his car one of them shoots him. He returns fire, killing Detective McKenzie (Rob Minutoli).
Jones finds himself the subject of a departmental investigation as well as the attention of McKenzie’s family. That includes his brothers Kevin (Chris Kerson, Daylight’s End, Gotti) who’s also an NYPD Detective and claims to want to see the truth come out and Josh (Brad Fleischer) who sees it as confirmation of his racist beliefs.
Rather than have Equal Standard focus solely on Chris’ story, writer Taheim Bryan and director Brendan Kyle Cochrane choose to take a wider view of things. The film includes subplots about the response of some of the members of the community to the shooting of a black youth by a white cop and two street gangs trying to work out a truce.
While these storylines do allow the film to work in appearances by old school rappers turned actors Ice-T (Bloodrunners, Clinton Road), Anthony ‘Treach’ Criss (Feast, 13 Graves) and Fredro Starr (Torque, Diamond Ruff) they also take away from the main story. The bit of insight into the effects the shootings are having on the residents is nice but fairly superficial.
That might not be such a problem if Equal Standard was another of those films that were pushing two hours long. But at a hundred minutes it needs that time to focus on the main characters and storyline. Or run longer and better integrate those elements into the story, perhaps by contrasting the internal affairs investigations of the two shootings.
Equal Standard does have a good central plot, but at times it feels underdeveloped. I’d love to have seen more about the internal affairs investigation. Or the reaction of other cops to the incident. We see what the officers Chris worked with think, but very few others are heard from. What about the officers the dead man or his brother worked with?
The same with the inter-family issues with the McKenzies. We know Kevin must be facing pressure from his family given they seem to be a racist bunch. We even see his father at the precinct demanding to know “what you’re going to do about the nigger cop who shot my son”. Seeing how Kevin dealt with this would have added weight to his decisions and actions.
When it stays focused Equal Standard is a solid drama with a lot to say. And for the most part, it says it well and without painting any groups as all good or all evil. In fact, at times it feels like it’s trying a little too hard not to make the police look bad. Although I suppose that’s better than taking the easier all cops are bad, or all white cops are bad, attitude.