Nov 152023

I Love a Man in Uniform (also released as A Man in Uniform) is a 1993 Canadian psychological drama. IMDB

Henry Adler, a bank clerk and would-be actor, witnesses a police officer be shot. He seems excited by this.

Henry auditions for a secondary role, Officer Flanagan, on a TV cop show, Crimewave. He shows an aggressive and domineering side as he pushes around a female production assistant.

We also see that he has a difficult relationship with his controlling, dismissive father, and he’s on thin ice with his boss of the bank.

Henry gets the part. At the costume fitting, he meets Charlie, an actress who plays a sex worker. Their characters have several scenes together. Henry persuades the wardrobe manager to let him take the costume home.

The costume itself is black pants, black shirt, white undershirt, black leather jacket, and black cap. It’s very close to the leatherman look, and Henry fetishizes it.

Henry immerses himself into his character, muttering cliched cop dialog to himself constantly. He wears the police costume at home, then when going for walks. He buys a police radio scanner, then takes a gun from a guy who was trying to rob his apartment. This starts to bleed into his everyday interactions.

He talks about justice and wanting to protect people, standard cop show rhetoric, but what this is really about is wanting to intimidate and control people. He’s a bully who wants to cloak himself in authority.

Parallel to this, he becomes obsessed with Charlie, as they meet to rehearse together. While he wears his costume for their rehearsal, she doesn’t. Henry persuades her to go with him to meet his dying father in the hospital, and implies they are lovers. This makes Charlie break it off with him, contributing to his distress.

On Crime Wave, the character of Flanagan dies in a blaze of masculine glory. With his character killed off (and his father dead), Henry steals his costume and wears it to prowl the streets at night. He meets Frank, a older, real police officer. Two men in black leather sizing each other up in a dark alley looks more than a little homoerotic.

Frank invites Henry (as “Flanagan”) to follow him into underworld of tunnels and basements, where they shake down an Asian man for money. Frank pressures Henry into shooting the man, then makes it looks like self-defense.

Badly shaken, Henry goes to Charlie’s apartment and forces his way in, using his uniform’s authority to calm the neighbors, then smashes her phone with his nightstick. He incoherently says he killed “a Vietnamese junkie” and tries to explain himself to her. Charlie gets him to leave.

Finally, Henry goes to his father’s now-empty house, watches his finale on Crime Wave, then shoots himself. A police officer investigates, sees the remnants of his costume/uniform, and reports “Officer down.”

Like O Phantasmo, Uniform shows male fetishism as a means of forming masculine identity. The garment is a medium of connection to other men, and it catalyzes the wearer’s loss of identity. Henry subsumes himself into the idealized cop character of “Flanagan” or the less-than-ideal Frank. Even after his death, he is mistaken for a police officer. This ties in with several other films in which men put on fetishistic clothing to adopt an idealized masculine persona, and end up losing themselves in it.

Note: I first saw this film years ago on cable. The DVD I acquired was formatted for TV broadcast, and at least one scene was cut for nudity.

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