Anyone who’s ever been pulled over by a small town cop knows someone like Sheriff Ronald E. Hewett. While Sheriff Hewett isn’t “The Law” in Brunswick County, North Carolina, in the sense that he’s not a single gun operation, he is the man responsible for building up the county’s Sheriff’s department into the professional crime fighting outfit it is today. And he’s just an ordinary citizen like you and me…or at least that seems to be the thesis behind director Daniel Kraus’ simple yet engaging documentary, “Sheriff.”
“Sheriff” is a stripped-down, small town “COPS” without the flashy editing and hip-hop soundtrack. In fact, Kraus uses only natural lighting and sound, which actually serves to humanize not only the sheriff and his department, but the town they serve as well. It’s a little fawning, to be sure, but watching Sheriff Hewett’s humility and natural down to earthedness struggle with an innate drive to succeed and an uncanny sense of media savvy makes for interesting viewing.
While the city’s older residents seem to be desperately clinging to their small town past, “Sheriff” shows how Sheriff Hewett gently, yet forcefully and unfailingly politely pushes back against such big city scourges as backroom video gambling halls and mob-owned strip joints. It’s as if the Sheriff knows that unless he can keep these undesirable elements out of his town, the next episode of “Sheriff” might just be “COPS” after all.