LA Watch List: We Own This City Promises a More Empathetic Take on Crime, Cops, and Corruption - Arts & Culture

The limited series shares much of its DNA with The Wire.

It’s 2022 and gritty and unapologetic stories about crime and corruption is still pretty much a formula worth going back to. At least, that’s what HBO is banking with its newest limited series.

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Titled We Own This City, the six-episode HBO show chronicles the rise and fall of Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force’s (GTTF). Of course, it will touch on the moral collapse that befell the American city in which the policies of drug prohibition and mass arrest were championed at the expense of actual police work. 

Jon Bernthal plays Sgt. Wayne Jenkins of the Baltimore Police Department, perhaps the central figure in the sprawling federal corruption case. Its GTTF is a plainclothes unit that went completely rogue and began hunting and robbing citizens and drug dealers alike as decades of a relentless drug war and mass incarceration spun out of control.

The actor comes from a personal place when playing Jenkins. In an interview with UPROXX, Bernthal shares that he has both been incarcerated before and been roughed up by the police growing up in DC.

“It’s always been an issue that has been unbelievably frustrating for me that the discourse around this issue is either one way or the other—it’s either black or white,” he says. “And I feel like so much of the discourse around this, it’s been people shouting from the polls, waving their flags.”

Discussions around these things should be rooted in empathy and not empty rhetoric, he points out. Fortunately, with the show’s creators David Simon and George Pelecanos, Bernthal says that “you get to dive into the complication and the nuance and it’s the only way you can tell the story.”

Simon reiterates this goal for a more balanced approach in an interview with Decider. “If you live by the mantra that, ‘ACAB,’ all cops are bastards, or you live by the mantra of Back the Blue, you’re probably not going to be particularly satisfied with some parts of this mini-series,” he says.

He continues: “And you’re probably not going to be particularly useful to ever solving any of the real problems because all cops aren’t bastards. You can’t always Back the Blue. It comes down to a very fundamental need to address the system and what has happened with law enforcement. And what’s happened with the drug war and mass incarceration.”

We Own This City also stars main cast Wunmi Mosaku, Jamie Hector, McKinley Belcher III, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Josh Charles, Dagmara Domińczyk, Rob Brown, Don Harvey, David Corenswet, Larry Mitchell, Ian Duff, Delaney Williams, and Lucas Van Engen.

Guest stars in the series include Treat Williams, Gabrielle Carteris, Tray Chaney, Domenick Lombardozzi, Thaddeus Street, Jermaine Crawford, Nathan E. Corbett, Chris Clanton, Anwan Glover, Bobby Brown, Michael Salconi, Susan Rome, Kim Tuvin, and Maria Broom.

We Own This City is directed and executive produced by Reinaldo Marcus Green; executive produced by Nina K. Noble, Ed Burns, and Kary Antholis. In addition, co-executive producer Bill Zorzi, as well as writers Pelecanos, Simon, Burns, Zorzi and D. Watkins worked on the series.

We Own This City can be streamed on HBO GO.

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