Officer Robert Dayton (Michael Boatman) and Officer Raymond Williamson (Mario Van Peebles - New Jack City) grew up together in the area which is now part of their beat and they have witnessed how it has changed with the likes of Justice Butler (Courtney B. Vance - The Hunt for Red October) having moved in and used it as a hub for drug dealing and cutting. It doesn't help matters when despite having a veteran like Det. Dan Reilly (Peter Boyle - Cannonball Fever) on your side you have his partner Det. Victor Tomasino (Ray Sharkey) referring to more and more people, especially African Americans, as animals having become tired of all the trouble coming out of the area. When Williamson gets killed by Butler and it seems like the white cops are not doing enough to catch him, Robert is prepared to take matters in to his own hands if needs be to get justice.
That synopsis for "In the Line of Duty: Street War" makes it sound like some sort of action, revenge movie where a cop turns rogue after their partner is killed. But the truth is "In the Line of Duty: Street War" is nothing at all like that but more a glimpse at a troubled area of a city from all sides. As such we first get a glimpse of things from a guy called Prince Franklin, played by Morris Chestnut, who having done time for something foolish when he was younger wants to go straight and do the right thing by his woman but his past mistake makes it hard and he finds himself drawn in to Justice Butler's drug dealing world because he wants what he can't have.
But that is just the first side of "In the Line of Duty: Street War" because then we see things from Robert Dayton's side as a black cop who not only has nightmares about being killed on the streets he calls home but believes that the white detectives are not doing their job like they would if his partner had been white. This isn't full blown examination of police racism but more a look at how Robert struggles with the loss of his life long friend. And then we get the views of detective Reilly, a veteran who as he comes up to retirement knows the importance of understanding and compassion in doing the job. And then we get Tomasino who being younger is angrier at all the crime and it is eating him up inside as he calls everyone animals. All of these sides interweave to paint a semi balanced look at life in a crime riddled area of a city, I say semi balanced as there is some heavy stereotyping going on.
Now "In the Line of Duty: Street War" certainly benefits from a good cast with Peter Boyle absolutely brilliant as the veteran detective but you also have this depth which Morris Chestnut brings to the role of Prince as he wants to be clean but knows he won't get anywhere by playing by the rules. And then there is Ray Sharkey who certainly delivers a passionate and angry performance as Tomasino.
What this all boils down to is that "In the Line of Duty: Street War" is another one of the "in the Line of Duty" TV movies which has stood the test of time and is still both entertaining and interesting. Although whilst it does try to deliver a balanced account of crime in a city it does at times feel like it stereotypes a little too much.