Plot: Paul Fein (Charles Bronson) is a hardened, veteran police officer who might not be the best at expressing his emotions, but he loves his family even more than he loves dispensing justice. After he meets his son Ben (Daniel Baldwin) for a drink, he arrests a crime boss on the way out of the restaurant and informs his son he would like to have his kids together soon, to celebrate his birthday. Paul is eager to spend time with his family and even the family’s black sheep Jackie (Angela Featherstone) returns home for the event, much to everyone’s surprise. But when she sneaks out for a sleepover with a man she meets at a bar, she wakes up at a crime scene, as the man has been killed and the evidence points to her. As he tries to uncover the truth and chase down leads, Paul is shocked once again when Ben is shot under mysterious circumstances, but he is dead set on settling the score with whoever is responsible.
Entertainment Value: Family of Cops was the first of what would become a trilogy of made for television cop movies with Charles Bronson in the lead, as well as what would stand as his final performances. As this was made for network television, the material is limited in some ways, but still delivers a competent, well made crime narrative that has some interesting elements. The story has familiar notes, with a father desperate to protect his family and a murder mystery thread, but the emphasis on family and Jackie’s persona help it stand out. The movie doesn’t shy away from Jackie’s penchant for casual sex with numerous partners, but doesn’t demonize her for her actions, which is pretty rare, especially in a television drama. This leads to some very powerful scenes between Bronson and Featherstone, as they explore the father/daughter dynamic in a genuine, emotional fashion. The murder investigation is passable at best, but has some fun twists and with Bronson at the center of it all, what could have been a bland thriller is lifted above that fate. The pace slows a little in the middle, but has an effective hook to start with and ramps up as the finale closes in.
The draw of Family of Cops for most viewers is likely Charles Bronson and for fans of his work, there’s a lot to like here. While not as “one man wrecking crew” as in the Death Wish series, Bronson brings the heat here and even at the end of his run, is still a more than capable bad ass. Even here well into his 70s, Bronson is a tough guy that seems like he could demolish most of the young action heroes, so he remains an authentic presence to the end. He is confrontational and kicks ass like always, but also shows some softer moments here with genuine emotion. His scenes with Angela Featherstone are some of the movie’s best and while Bronson isn’t often praised for his depth, he shows he has the dramatic chops in those moments. Featherstone does well also, in a complex role that is given the time and space to develop, so for a made for television movie, there is some surprising depth here. She also has a scene where she hides a rat in her breasts, which seems quite normal, given her character’s quirkiness. The cast also includes Daniel Baldwin, John Vernon, Lesley-Anne Downes, and Barbara Williams. As far as crime dramas are concerned, Family of Cops is more than solid and if nothing else, gave us one last run with Bronson as an ass kicking cop.