Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10), TMDB.com (6/10)

Questions about unchecked police power have become one of today’s hot button social issues, and the public is deeply divided about it, depending on who one speaks with. Writer-director Yance Ford’s latest pours ample fuel onto this fire with a cinematic essay that clearly has an impassioned view on the subject, making a strong case that some will obviously agree with but that others are likely to decry as an agenda-driven leftist treatise. Through a series of interviews with academics who have studied the issue and criminal justice insiders, viewers are shown the dual-edged sword surrounding this subject. While the film acknowledges that there is a need for policing in light of the prevalence of violent crime, it also argues that the supposed deterrent to this problem – a greater police presence with wider, legally sanctioned latitude in carrying out its mission – is simultaneously contributing to its growth, circumstances that have long gone unrecognized and/or willfully ignored as a result of longstanding prejudicial societal conditions that have only furthered the proliferation of this issue. Those conditions, in turn, are dissected in terms of how and why they fell into place through the years as a means to curtail the freedoms of those who were seen as posing an inherent (if somewhat overblown and paranoic) threat to the social order imposed by an entitled power structure (namely, anyone whose demographic attributes didn’t match those of the self-appointed elite). Archive footage thus explores the efforts of early police forces to contain the lives and activities of slaves, indigenous peoples, immigrants and labor organizers, all of whom were considered suspect simply by virtue of their own innate identities. And, from these dubiously sanctioned roots, the power of those in charge has only grown more formidable and pervasive in forcefully holding down those who are perceived as dangers to the status quo, such as student radicals, social and political opponents, and others outside “the mainstream,” thanks to the supply of increasingly alarming means more typical of paramilitary operations than the civilized maintenance of law and order necessary for the functioning of a supposedly mature democracy. Good cases are made in favor of these arguments, to be sure. And, in all fairness, the film incorporates the views of constituents within the system who are legitimately trying to reform it internally. Admittedly, though, “Power” has a tendency to become somewhat circular in making its point, redundantly repeating its genuinely valid contentions but without offering solutions to a scenario that only seems to growing worse without impactful efforts to contain it, a decidedly missed opportunity to meaningfully address the situation. Perhaps that’s what is needed next, with this offering serving primarily to draw attention to and raise awareness of the issue, but I think the public at large is already sufficiently cognizant of the situation that this release could have gone farther in tackling its subject. Sustained recognition of the problem is certainly a noteworthy takeaway from this production, but it’s unfortunate that it didn’t seek to expand on that notion and offer us more in terms of providing answers – and hope for the future