‘Caught in Crossfire’ presents well-written cop drama with Grand Rapids flavor

Lauren Fitch

In the 14 short days it took the production crew behind “Caught in the Crossfire” to film the movie in Grand Rapids, they managed to capture an essence of the city and develop the characters and action into a convincing cop drama.

Written and directed by Grand Valley State University alumnus Brian Miller, “Caught in the Crossfire” premiered Tuesday night at Celebration Cinema North in Grand Rapids, where a sold-out crowd excitedly greeted Miller, producer Randall Emmett and the famous Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who starred in the film as well as acting as co-producer.

The film was well-received as the audience occasionally cheered throughout and met the ending with a round of applause. “Caught in the Crossfire” tells the story of the Grand Rapids Police Department seeking revenge after one of its officers is shot during what they think is a gang bust gone wrong. More people are killed and as the investigation continues, evidence shows a crooked cop may have contributed to the mayhem. The trust between the two lead partners played by Adam Rodriguez and Chris Kline is tested.

The action is divided into a series of flashbacks between an interrogation room where Rodriguez and Kline are separately giving their statements about what happened and scenes actually portraying the events they describe. From the opening scene of a shoot out between officers and their main suspect, the audience immediately gets to see a personal side of the characters and becomes emotionally invested in their reaction to the shootings.

Miller appeals to a sense of justice as the plot unfolds but does a good job of leaving the viewer to decide for him or herself who to believe among the cops, the gang members and the police informant, Jackson’s character, Tino. The characters are well developed as Rodriguez and Kline transition to acting for the big screen. The audience finds itself torn between the different definitions of justice each uses to warrant his actions.

A big selling point for the local crowd was simply seeing Grand Rapids on the big screen. Director of Photography William Eubank captured some of the landmarks of downtown Grand Rapids, including the Sixth Street bridge, the blocks between Fulton and Pearl streets and shots over I-196 and the Grand River.

More local flavor is added to the film with recognition of the Grand Rapids Police Department, the Wealthy Street Boys gang and scenes from various neighborhoods and an old warehouse. Also, 75 percent of the crew was local hires who are again working with Jackson on his latest film in Grand Rapids, “Things Fall Apart.”

“Yes, we say you should go to Los Angeles (to pursue a film career) because that’s the natural thing to do,” Emmett said after the movie. “But at the same time, there’s tons of work here and the film community is growing every day and getting bigger and bigger for us. In large part, I want to thank 50 because he keeps bringing movie after movie here.”

The budget of less than $1 million was apparent in the amateur nature of some of the shots, but the approach worked to an extent in that it added to the “gritty, action cop thriller” feeling Miller said he wanted. The exposure for Grand Rapids and Michigan as a whole was valuable.

From someone who is not a big fan of action movies in general, the shoot out scenes seemed unnecessarily drawn out in some instances. Most of the high-action scenes were shot with a “man-on-foot” approach with the jostling of the camera and abrupt pans of the action. This style was disconcerting at times, especially when used in the opening scene when the audience is still trying to get its bearings on what is unfolding.

Despite 50 Cent’s apparent passion for the film and personal experiences tying him to his character of Tino, his acting was one of the low points of the movie. His performance fell flat and failed to truly sell the character. Tino is shot and killed in one of the face offs during the movie, and Jackson joked with the audience after the movie about basing his performance on his real-life gun wounds.

“It was pretty easy because I could draw from me,” he said, laughing. “I just had to focus and I could feel it all over again.”

Overall, “Caught in the Crossfire” was well written and executed and is a film worth seeing. The value of the exposure for Grand Rapids and Michigan alone makes it deserving of recognition as Jackson continues his commitment to bring the film industry to Michigan.

“Caught in the Crossfire” is set to go straight to DVD release on July 13, though Jackson said Lionsgate is purchasing it.

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