Director Ryan Cooglar’s debut feature “Fruitvale Station” is a brutal reminder of the chaos that can result from a seemingly meaningless incident; when cooler heads do not prevail, and law officers are not trained properly in art of diffusion.
The movie starts out by showing us an apparent home video of police officers mercilessly beating a man at a BART train station somewhere in Oakland, California and then introduces us to the mixed up world of Oscar Grant. The 22-year old Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan – The Wire, Friday Night Lights), might pass for any black, urban, young man, struggling to support his daughter and her unwed mother (Melonie Diaz); but on this day, things will turn tragic.
Oscar has already done a few stints in jail for his dealings with marijuana and now that he has lost his supermarket job, it looks like he may have to dabble in the weed market again in order to support his family. Oscar, who is neither threatening, nor a thug, is shown shopping for his mom’s birthday party (Oscar winner - Octavia Spencer); doting on his daughter; and subtly promising all involved that everything is going to be okay, without so much as saying so. Although an aura of trouble seems to permeate the young man, he assures his wife that he no longer wishes to be involved in drugs, and that a New Years Eve celebration may be just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately for Oscar, he becomes separated from his wife on the BART train while they are on their way home from the party, and while seemingly minding his own business, he is confronted by a man who he had been jailed with.
The end result is a picture of mayhem, as Oscar struggles with the man and is then confronted by some over-the-top police officers who threaten to Tase him. In the complete opposite of the “how-to handle” menacing situations manual, the officers incite the crowd and Oscar ends up being shot in the back.
Why did this happen? For those who insist everything is a racial incident, get on the bus. For me, it was a classic example of how not to handle things by the cops. I realize that potentially explosive events like this turn on fractions of a second, but it is obvious that that the police panicked and tragedy resulted, because they were not trained properly ─ not because it was a racial incident. Why not make something good, out of something bad: Use the movie as required viewing during police training.
My Rating: 4 of 5 Legendary “Oops.”