Mexican filmmaker Alonso Ruizpalacios’ latest film, ‘A Cop Movie,’ is an exciting docudrama that begins as a ride-along cop documentary but soon becomes so much more. The film follows the stories of two police officers, Teresa and Montoya, as they traverse life on the job, alternating between heroic and human. The almost disorienting mix of fact and fiction that keeps the viewers engaged forms for an interesting experience, providing the film with multiple layers and questions that come together as it winds down.
The film cleverly pivots from the oft-repeated heroic portrayal of the police by providing the audience with an honest and disarming look at the system at work. Accompanied by a jazzy and brassy score almost reminiscent of cop shows of old, the film ends on a contemplative note. So, here’s everything you need to know about it. SPOILERS AHEAD.
A Cop Movie Recap
The movie’s first chapter opens with the viewers riding alongside María Teresa Hernández Cañas, a veteran of the police force in Mexico City, Mexico. Teresa serves as the narrator as she responds to an emergency at a residence where a woman is about to give birth. But with no ambulance in sight, it falls upon Teresa to perform the almost heroic task of helping deliver the baby, something she is sure to let us know that she has never done before.
As the story unfolds, we learn more about her life and why she joined the force. Teresa always wanted to be a police officer, which was heavily influenced by the fact that her father was one himself. Going against his wishes, she enrolls in the academy and graduates, landing her dream job. However, Teresa soon realizes that the job wasn’t what she thought it would be like.
Then, the second chapter introduces another officer, José de Jesús Rodríguez Hernández, better known as Montoya on the streets. Just like Teresa, Montoya also followed a family member’s footsteps. In this case, it was his brother. Soon, it becomes clear that Teresa and Montoya are a married couple who met on the job.
Adorably nicknamed “the love patrol,” the two of them bonded over the difficulties in their personal lives by sharing them while on patrol together. By supporting each other through tough times, love soon began to blossom, leading to a strong relationship. We’re treated to vignettes of their life together as they work through the travails of the job.
Just like the general distrust between the public and the police is introduced, the rampant corruption within the force is also quickly established. We see both Teresa and Montoya accept bribes from civilians in different scenarios. This sets up the film’s final act, where the couple talks of how bribery became a way of life for police officers in the city and how, in a way, it helps everyone from the civilians to the higher-ups within the institution. We eventually learn that Teresa draws the ire of her superiors despite doing her job, leading to a cycle of indirect punishment for the couple. Teresa then wonders if they should just quit the job.
A Cop Movie Ending: Does the Film Break the Fourth Wall?
About halfway through the movie, we learn that the story of Teresa and Montoya showed until then was played out by actors. As the illusion slips away, the film shifts the narrative focus to the two actors, Mónica del Carmen and Raúl Briones, who undergo an intensive, real-life training regimen to become police officers.
Through video diaries, Mónica and Raúl talk about the routine they go through in the academy. They provide an insider’s account of the motivation behind why the others in the academy chose to become police officers, with reasons ranging from it being a necessity to a dream. Mónica and Raúl muse about the valley of difference between the training undertaken and the requisite skill needed to be an officer on the street.
Who Are the Real Teresa and Montoya?
The reason behind the almost too honest dialogue of the film seemingly becomes clear when yet another layer is peeled away in the film’s final act. We are introduced to the real-life Teresa and Montoya and learn that they narrated their stories all along while Mónica and Raúl were lip-synching to them.
Teresa and Montoya talk about how accepting bribes and shaking down citizens almost became a necessity to them, breaking down their daily expenses. In a cruel development, Teresa talks about paying a bribe for something as essential as a decent bulletproof vest and a squad car. With an honesty that is at times charming, they mention being a part of a broken system that leads to a sense of distaste between the civilians and the officers.
What Happened to Teresa and Montoya?
During one of Teresa and Montoya’s usual patrolling nights, Teresa sees motorbikes illegally parked on a public street and decides to fine them this time because they were warned about it earlier. The man in charge over there turns out to be an influential person, and as a result, the couple faces punishment. In the days that followed, Teresa was threatened to be fired from her job and was constantly harassed. Montoya was asked to patrol areas where nothing happened for days on end.
As their frustrations grew, Montoya talked about being ashamed of becoming a police officer, and Teresa rued the fact that it didn’t meet her expectations. We learn eventually that in the winter of 2019, Teresa and Montoya decided to leave the police force, becoming increasingly disillusioned with the dysfunctional system that they felt punished them for doing their jobs. While one can assume that it could have been a difficult decision to quit, the years could also have taken a toll on Teresa and Montoya. From what we can tell, they seem to lead a life away from public scrutiny.
Read More: Is A Cop Movie Based on a True Story?