'Caught in the Crossfire' Gets Caught-up in Every Cop-Movie Cliché There Is

Well, I'm glad to see that Chris Klein still gets work...

Caught in the Crossfire

Director: Brian A. Miller
Cast: Chris Klein, Adam Rodriquez, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Richard T. Jones, Michael Matthias, Christine Lakin
Distributor: Lionsgate
UK Release Date: 2010-08-16
US Release Date: 2010-07-13

I recently stumbled across American Pie on basic cable, which led me to ask the question, what has Chris Klein been up to? The answer arrived in my mailbox a few days later. Apparently he has spent some time making Caught in the Crossfire, a direct-to-video cop movie with 50 Cent. Well, I’m glad Klein is still getting work. It feels like the roles that would have gone to him at the peak of his career are now going to his new (and one might argue, slightly more talented) clone, Channing Tatum (look into this crystal ball and see your future, Channing Tatum).

Rappers turned actors are a tricky proposition. Ice Cube and T have solid film careers, and Fresh Prince is now one of the biggest movie stars in the free world, and before he embarked on a career of imitating federal agents, DMX looked poised to follow a similar path. Yet for every artist that successfully makes the transition from musician to legitimate thespian, there are cautionary tales like Treach from Naughty by Nature, and Ja Rule, among others. Let us not forget Vanilla Ice’s ill-advised foray into film.

So, how does Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson fare when it comes to acting? He wasn’t bad in Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Granted he played himself, but it still counts for something. Photos from the upcoming Things Fall Apart show an almost emaciated 50, so at least you know he’s dedicated enough to lose some weight for a role. Christian Bale did it, so that, too, might count for something.

The jury is largely still out on 50’s second job, and I originally hoped that Caught in the Crossfire would shed some light on the subject, but alas, it didn’t. Though he gets third billing, 50 plays Tino, an informant who is only on screen for a few minutes, and even then doesn’t do much other than look uncomfortable in the back of a police cruiser. Klein is Briggs, a Grand Rapids, Michigan homicide detective who, with his partner, Shepherd (Adam Rodriguez, CSI: Miami), investigates the murder of an undercover officer, which leads them down a twisted path involving murder, drugs, gangs, and corrupt cops.

Overall, Crossfire is up and down and all over the place. From the first frame the movie practically screams “gritty crime drama” and during moments of high action, the jittery, hand-held camera can be disorienting.

Written and directed by Brian A. Miller, Caught in the Crossfire feels like it was made by people who only know about crime from watching crime movies. Characters continually refer to “Gangland” as if it is a physical place, like you could be a resident of Gangland, or sit on the city council of Gangland.

Every cop-movie cliché you can think of pops up at some point. Briggs is a renegade who says things like, “I’ve seen things no one should see”, and wants to “cowboy up” and crack skulls, while Shepherd is more controlled, and tries to do the right thing, regardless of the personal costs; there is the alcoholic cop just trying to get to his pension; and there is a scene where Briggs has to go tell the dead cop’s wife (Christine Lakin of Step by Step fame, who, aside from a female bartender with one line, is the only woman in the entire movie) that her husband is dead.

There is even the obligatory handing in of the badge and gun. In sum, you’ve seen most of this movie, before.

There is an extended prologue, and the main action of the first two acts is framed in parallel interrogation scenes and told in flashbacks (there is even a flashback within a flashback). The structuring device is clunky and takes some getting used to. In the end, it makes sense that Miller constructs the story this way, but it is largely mishandled, obvious, and jarring to watch as the narrative jumps all over the place without cause or warning.

Klein looks suitably mussed up to play a hardscrabble detective. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the acting chops to pull off the necessary emotional range, and when he is supposed to be at his most most intense, his over the top delivery borders on comical. He tries multiple times to have crazy eyes, but fails miserably.

With that notable exception, the rest of the cast delivers solid work. Rodriguez gives the performance of the movie, with the most wide-reaching scope as a character, and Richard T. Jones and Michael Matthias are good as police brass.

Despite some serious problems, Miller does create an atmosphere of tension that diffuses throughout the entire film and seeps into every scene. On the surface, the characters may be fairly stock types, but they are given enough complexity to make their stories compelling to watch.

I despise when movies have a twist just for the sake of having a twist. Most of the time they are awkward and damage the film. The twist at the end of High Tension ruined what was otherwise a pretty kickass horror movie, and filmmakers run the risk of tarnishing everything they’ve worked to create by trying to tack on a clever ending. It's difficult to effectively pull off a twist near the end of a movie, but Crossfire actually does. I didn’t expect it, but Miller executes a decent twist. Unlike many sudden shifts, it's set up well and earned, which makes it satisfying in that regard, but you don’t see it coming, which also makes it fulfilling on that count.

I won’t say that Caught in the Crossfire is a great movie, and it isn’t something that I will ever feel the need to watch again, or heap praise upon, but it isn’t bad. There are certainly movies in the genre that are much, much worse. It is a decent mystery/thriller/cop drama, and if that’s your jam, you might enjoy it.

The DVD packaging is slick and looks nice, though it prominently shows 50 Cent holding a gun, which he never does in the movie, but hey, it looks cool. Aside from a few trailers for other Lionsgate releases, the only bonus feature is a ten-minute reel of outtakes, flubbed lines, and actors dancing between takes. The light feel of the feature stands in sharp contrast to the dark, serious tone of the movie, but it isn’t that interesting anyway, so you’ll probably want to skip it.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.