Underground Film Journal

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Short Documentary: All Hail Chief Mooney

By Mike Everleth ⋅ May 23, 2013

Saint, sinner or both? Filmmaker John Mikulak perfectly captures the face of small town law enforcement in the short documentary All Hail Chief Mooney. Described early on in the film as both endearingly “horrible” and having the “best heart in the whole world,” Chief Daniel Mooney of Waverly Township in Pennsylvania comes off as one extremely colorful character, making wildly inappropriate comments while at the same time proving that, yes, his heart is in the right place.

Mikulak is clearly drawn to these types of big, contradictory personalities having previously co-directed the feature-length The Man Who Would Be Polka King (made with Joshua Brown). This is also a filmmaker who likes to have fun with documentary standards and practices, with the true story of The Man Who Would Be Polka King being narrated by a fake character, and one of the best scenes of All Hail Chief Mooney being a hilarious crime scene “re-enactment.”

Chief Mooney stands in front of a store with an undercover detective

While the documentary doesn’t drill down too far into Mooney’s personal life, it does feel like it offers up a complete picture of the chief’s true personality, as he comes across as a man intensely comfortable in his own skin and uniform. Mooney also doesn’t get into too much detail about his law enforcement style, but we see it in the way he interacts with the members of the community and through his direct address to the camera. His politically incorrect sense of humor disarms those around him while also providing a challenge — who’s going to tell the guy who can through you in a jail cell for the night that he’s being inappropriate. His comments are good natured and terribly serious in the same breath.

If you enjoy All Hail Chief Mooney above, the Underground Film Journal seriously recommends checking out The Man Who Would Be Polka King, which is available to view online as well.