A Shot Through the Wall Review: A Thoughtful Exploration of Hot Button Issues

A Chinese-American NYPD cop (Kenny Leu) accidentally kills an innocent black man in A Shot Through the Wall.
A Shot Through the Wall targets a multitude of hot-button issues that have divided society to the core. A Chinese-American NYPD rookie accidentally kills an innocent black man while chasing a teenager through an apartment building. Racial profiling, police brutality, ethnic conflicts, and the so-called “blue wall of silence” are addressed with stark realism. Director/writer Aimee Long pulls no punches in her feature film debut. A Shot Through the Wall takes a complex view of the protagonist’s situation without resorting to cheap theatrics. It’s told from a distinctly Asian perspective without any exploration of the black victim. The film would have been more effective with a balanced approach to the killing.
A Shot Through the Wall opens on a sunny Brooklyn street. NYPD rookie Mike Tan (Kenny Leu) watches as his aggressive partner, Ryan Doheny (Derek Goh), shakes down several black teenagers. One of the boys runs away with the cops in pursuit. They chase him into an apartment building with devastating consequences. Mike draws his gun. It accidentally goes off. Firing through a wall and killing an innocent man in his apartment.
Mike becomes the face of police brutality in New York City. His strict Chinese parents (Fiona Fu, Tzi Ma) are horrified by his choices. They didn’t want him to be a policeman. Mike’s black fiancé Candace (Ciara Renée), the daughter of his captain (D.C. Walker), becomes embroiled in the racial backlash. The district attorney (Catherine Curtin) decides to make an example of him. Mike must decide to fight the charges or accept the consequences of his actions.
A Shot Through the Wall had me riveted until the third act. The finale took me by surprise. No spoilers here, but I disagree with Aimee Long’s resolution. She takes an easy path after building such a textured character drama. Mike had always struggled to live up to his strict Chinese parent’s high expectations. The killing compounds his guilt and inability to satisfy them. But his family dynamics are peanuts compared to the storm of public controversy. Mike’s difficulties handling the media scrutiny, police union, and overwhelming feelings of guilt are fascinating to see. Aimee Long takes her foot off the gas too quickly after hitting full narrative speed.
The case of Minneapolis police officer Kim Potter buzzed through my head while watching this film. She was convicted for accidentally killing Daunte Wright in a traffic stop. She meant to grab her taser but fired her gun instead. The entire incident was recorded on body cameras. The question, just like in this film, was her degree of culpability for an erroneous discharge. The case lit a powder keg of animosity between police supporters and reform activists. A Shot Through the Wall succeeds in capturing the bitter gulf between two ardent viewpoints. In reality, a jury decided that there can be no accidents. Potter was responsible the moment she brandished her firearm. In fiction, Mike Tan is portrayed as a good man. He should also be judged as such.
A Shot Through the Wall gives voice to the Asian community and police officers who try their best in difficult scenarios. They should not be unfairly vilified, but also need to be held to a higher standard. The film should have incorporated more from the victim’s family. It also somewhat cheats with a blunt resolve. But it is definitely a worthy effort from a promising filmmaker. A Shot Through the Wall is a production of Kings Road Pictures. It will have a concurrent VOD and theatrical premiere on January 21st from Vertical Entertainment.
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