Cops ★★★★½

Leave it to Buster Keaton to invent that niche ACAB sub-genre of film.

Over one hundred years old this two reeler is, but it's a pretty perfect example of what made Buster such a two-reel legend. This one here is an almost perfect mixture of Buster running amuk with magic energy, that "gosh wow" stunt work that takes your breath away, the usual artful and even timely gags filtered throughout, but it's the gnarly way in which he and Edward F. Cline give this a tone of Kafka-like oppressiveness, of the nature of hopeless ensnarement, (this almost assuredly is because this was filmed amidst Fatty Arbuckle's rape-murder trial) that starts from the opening seconds and carries through to the hat-adorned headstone appearing at the end that makes it stand out and above so many great Keaton shorts. I have always been fully engaged and entertained, but I found myself fascinated by the philosophically adept way in which this particular film engages its main character and thusly how we, the audience, engage with him and his ultimate fate.

Plot was always superfluous to Buster Keaton, nothing but a canvas for him to paint on, and paint so very vigorously at that. This one here is one of his greatest pieces of work among so many masterpieces because the melancholic nature of it isn't anecdotal like other of his can be at times, but is actually treated as kind of stone cold fact that is turned right around on the audience to see how exactly they will respond to being challenged the way they are here.

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