As I sat through the opening quarter of “Officer Down,” I assumed that my biggest obstacle would be overlooking its formulaic plot and stock characters. But as it played on, I gradually realized I would be facing much bigger problems. The further along it goes, the more convoluted and implausible it becomes, until finally it devolves into a tiresome and repetitive display of cop drama mechanics. This is not a malicious movie, but it is a mismanaged one. It’s structured in such a way that it repeatedly changes gears; just when we think we know what it will be about, it directs our attention to another storyline and ends up being about something else entirely. This happens more than once. By the time it was over, I knew that the mystery had been solved, but I no longer knew which plot points were vital and which were simply red herrings. The annoying thing is, I think the filmmakers believed they were being clever.
The central character is David Callahan (Stephen Dorff), a detective for the Bridgeport police. His story unfolds as a needlessly complicated series of twisting present-day events and out-of-sequence flashbacks. What we know right off the bat is that he’s a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who got sober after being shot in the line of duty and rescued by an anonymous good samaritan. As he sits in a bar, drinking a Diet Coke instead of the shot of booze directly next to his hand, he’s approached by a Russian man. He tells Callahan that his name is Sergei Dronov (Zoran Radanovich), and that he was the good samaritan. He’s finally presenting himself to Callahan not because he wants to be thanked, but because he needs a cop to take on an unofficial case, namely to track down and bring to justice the man who drove his daughter to suicide.
Dronov gives his daughter’s journal to Callahan. Its entries, written in neat feminine swirls and scrawls, weave a heartbreaking tale of a young woman who just wanted to make something of herself for the sake of her immigrant parents, who sacrificed everything for her. To pay her way through college, she worked as a stripper – as it so happens, at the very same strip club Callahan used to frequent during his wayward days. She would ultimately be sexually assaulted by a man who merely seemed lonely and would draw pictures of her, and of other stippers, on cocktail napkins; apart from the trauma of the experience, she was racked with guilt over not reporting the incident and taking the steps towards never letting her attacker hurt another girl. She would end her life by slipping into a bathtub and overdosing on prescription pills.