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'The Oath,' and 50 Cent, Bring Dirty Cops to Crackle
March 8, 2018  | By David Hinckley

On TV, at least, being a dirty cop looks like really hard work.

The Oath, a 10-episode drama about a small gang of corrupt cops who call themselves the Ravens, becomes available all at once Thursday on Sony’s free streaming service, Crackle.

Created by Joe Halpin, a long-time undercover cop in Los Angeles, The Oath starts out as a show with no characters you want to root for and gradually gives them humanizing stories. That face doesn't completely excuse the fact they shake down business owners, facilitate street gang drug sales and every so often pull armed robberies just to score a little extra cash.

The Oath is executive-produced by 50 Cent, which is the equivalent of the Good Housekeeping seal if you’re wondering whether the show features raw street action.

The unofficial leader of the Ravens is Steve Hammond (Ryan Kwanten, left), a self-confident fellow and classic cool cop who wears sunglasses a lot. The group also includes his adoptive brother Cole (Cory Hardrict), Pete Ramos (J.J. Soria) and Karen Beach (Katrina Law).

For the Hammond brothers, it’s a kind of family business, thanks to their patriarch father, Tom Hammond (Sean Bean). Tom is currently behind bars, which is not a good place to be for several reasons.

While Tom is divorced from Steve’s mother Gwen (Linda Purl), she remains passively involved in the family’s avocation.

It turns out the Ravens are just one of several corrupt cop gangs in town, and when they hold a summit meeting to discuss turf issues, it becomes clear the gangs are not a harmonious bunch. Whether or not there is honor among thieves, there definitely isn’t much trust.

That ongoing tension escalates when the feds, under agent Aria Price (Elisabeth Röhm, below), figure out what’s going on and bust some of the Ravens. They can skate on any charges, though, if they help the feds nail some higher-end street gang criminals like overlord Neckbone (Kwame Patterson).

Because Agent Price doesn’t trust the Ravens, she embeds federal agent Damon Byrd (Arlen Escarpeta, left) in the group. Damon doesn’t really want to do it since his undercover work has already kept him away from his wife and son, but Agent Price makes it clear the assignment isn’t optional if he ever wants to get anywhere in this job.

Naturally, things do not go smoothly. An encounter with a suspicious dude named Sleep, who also happens to be Neckbone’s little brother, sends the whole operation sideways.

So many plans misfire on every side that it’s a wonder any street crime ever gets executed at all.

We viewers, meanwhile, get to ponder broader questions like, “Are there any good guys here?

As the show rolls along, The Oath tries to make the answer to that question tougher. Gang membership and corruption are, it seems, only two aspects of these cops’ lives.

Pete (Soria, left), like Byrd, is a devoted Dad trying to keep his marriage and family together. Karen is looking for a decent relationship. There are sick relatives who need medical care.

Corruption, in any case, turns out to be an exhausting option. You have to be on your guard 24/7, and you always have to have Plans B, C, and D because Plan A rarely ever works out. It almost feels sometimes like it would be easier to be honest, except that honesty has drawbacks, like not paying as well.

The Oath is in some ways a more raw version of NBC’s Shades of Blue. While it does suggest some fundamentally decent people can get caught up in this life, it doesn’t find much to admire about it. Except maybe as an incubator for tense drama.  

To live outside the law, as Bob Dylan once wrote, you must be honest.
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