Dec. 14th, 2016

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I started watching this movie because it was late, I had two hours of tutoring to go, access to Netflix, and it looked like I wouldn’t have to think about it too hard. Basically, I was right. If something that’s basically an hour and a half long episode of Law & Order: SVU but with a slight (if predictable) twist sounds appealing, it’s not a bad way to go. If you’ve had enough of police procedurals that involve serial murder and/or rape, then skip it. Simple enough. (Also, there will be more mentions of rape and some discussion later in this review, so also feel free to skip.)

The plot is pretty basic. Detective Nick Hopewell (Aaron Ashmore) is a new transfer to Homicide and on everyone’s shit list because he helped Internal Affairs takes down some crooked cops in his last department. He meets crime scene cleaner Morgan Sher (Devin Kelly) when she shows up early to the scene of a murder. Morgan shows an uncanny understanding of the crime scene and finds a useful clue that Nick’s dickish partner wants to ignore. As more murders occur, Nick teams up with Morgan to try to find the killer, and they dive deeper into the increasingly creepy relationship between the victims, who were once accused of being involved in some kind of rape cult.

I’m not going to spoil the little twist, but I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself based on the above summary. It’s decently acted and shot; nothing really jumped out at me for good or ill. And I will say that it contained one very SVU-esque exchange that I was glad for:

Nick: I don’t think Adam really likes women.

Morgan: Well, I don’t think anyone who rapes women likes them.

Nick: Good point.

Nice reminder to the audience that rape isn’t about desire. Swept Under has that same problematic internal conflict that I see in SVU, where there’s an uncomfortable tug of war between media once again telling stories on the bodies of women—with bonus harmful stereotype perpetuation—while still having startling, marked moments of clearly stating that rape is not the fault of the victim and the importance of consent. (I recently read a piece that argued the worst part of SVU is that it lives in a universe where rape culture doesn’t exist and the police actually take rape seriously while pretending to be reality-based.) SVU has had its better and much worse moments at this (eg the false rape accusation episodes) and it’s weirdly one of my comfort watch shows even though I know it’s deeply problematic. Swept Under probably falls on the middling to better end of that SVU spectrum, for what it’s worth.

Though notably, this movie fails to pass the Bechdel-Wallace test, which many SVU episodes do by grace of having more than one female cast member. Morgan was awash in a sea of white dudes. (The one tech-savvy African-American police officer was a welcome island of color in a limitless field of Miracle Whip for the twenty seconds he was on screen.)

Really, the problem that I had with Swept Under was that it goes from Nick wanting to work with Morgan because of her insight to him also wanting to date her. I really could have done without that subplot, and it was entirely unnecessary in my opinion—even to the end of the movie. If nothing else, it perpetuates the bullshit idea that men and women can’t manage to work together without it being some kind of sexual thing, and that relationships built on mutual trust and caring aren’t strong enough unless they’re romantic. It also really bothered me how Nick pivoted from respecting Morgan’s insight to being insistent about dating her—it started feeling like that was his real reason for wanting to work with her.

Ugh.

Other than that, Morgan and Nick were likeable enough characters, and I don’t regret crocheting a significant portion of a scarf while watching it. Plus it has a title that’s reaching me levels of badness, so I’ve got to love that. Solid Meh+.

Originally published at Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

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Tetsugawa Katsuhiro

September 2017

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