Other key figures include Jon Bernthal (“The Punisher”) as Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, a rogue officer whose accomplishments are documented through the aforementioned flashbacks; and Jamie Hector (“The Wire”) as Sean M. Suiter, a detective who begins to face unpleasant questions about his past.
As with “The Wire,” “We Own This City” provides a detailed look at the bureaucratic dysfunction that allowed certain officers to operate so rudely, including the influence that officers exerted on departmental and city officials who were concerned about their own careers and choices.
“You cut overtime, patrol cars run out,” warns world-weary police commissioner (Delaney Williams) city leaders, who tumble uncomfortably as they face rising crime and find money to enforce the necessary reforms.
Simon’s well-known team (including producers Pelecanos, Nina K. Noble and Ed Burns) is joined by director Reinaldo Marcus Green (“King Richard”) along with several familiar faces from Simon’s previous projects in the cast.
The striking thing is how nicely the real events depicted in “We Own This City” (a line openly declared by one of the officers) fit with the story lines “The Wire” that were tackled 20 years ago, only here on the other side of the Black Lives Matter movement and efforts to counter police brutality against people of color, powered by ubiquitous cell phones documenting such incidents.
A sign of law enforcement’s propensity to circle the carriages, after a violent encounter, Jenkins is reminded to write reports to avoid consequences, with a superior telling him, “The threat to your safety can never be mentioned enough.”
As mentioned, the project feels a bit messy at first, but the pieces come together in a convincing way and illustrate the deep roots of police excesses and the intangibility of the political will to achieve real solutions.
“I fought this war,” Treat Williams, a retired detective, tells Steele about the drug war. “It was lost when I got there. And I did nothing but lose in my time.”
“We Own This City” does not reach the level that “The Wire” did. But in terms of bringing a sharp dramatic eye to the big city police, Simon and the company pretty much own this genre.
“We Own This City” premieres on April 25 at 21:00 ET on HBO, which like CNN is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.