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'The Force'

U.S. Documentary; 93 minutes.

Good intentions run into bad habits in "The Force," a compelling documentary inside the troubled Oakland Police Department.

Director Peter Nicks follows the OPD for two years in this film, at various levels: Academy recruits going through their paces; beat cop Joe Cairo, dealing with situations on the street; and then-Chief Sean Whent, tasked to reform a department that has been under federal oversight for years.

Nicks captures scenes of Whent talking to recruits and community groups alike how the police must change some of their most antiquated and racist habits. He's also privy to fascinating conversations among academy students trying to answer complex ethical questions. And he shows us, from both sides, the divide between officers and the city's black and Latino communities.

Nicks even finds small amounts of hope for the OPD's reform drive — until scandals involving a teen prostitute and racist text messages send the department into chaos once again. News of the scandals also means Nicks apparently loses the behind-the-scenes access he had been granted so far, but by then the heartbreaking story of a police department caught between noble attempts at reform and a culture resistant to change has been told.

– Sean P. Means —

Also showing:

"The Force" screens again at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival at the following times and venues:

• Tuesday, Jan. 24, 11:30 a.m., Prospector Square Theatre, Park City

• Thursday, Jan. 26, 5:30 p.m., The MARC, Park City

• Friday, Jan. 27, 9 p.m., Redstone Cinema 7, Park City

• Saturday, Jan. 28, 12:30 p.m., Rose Wagner Center, Salt Lake City