NEW YORK (CNS) -- A character study pitting a resolutely good cop against three wrongdoers embodying various manifestations of evil, the tense, gritty crime drama "Copshop" (Open Road) shows the serious intentions of director Joe Carnahan and his co-writer, Kurt McLeod.

Yet, awash in gore by its closing credits, the film makes a suitable experience for few.

Based at an isolated Nevada police station, dedicated rookie Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) finds herself caught up in the plight of a newly arrived prisoner, slippery con artist Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo). Having double-crossed the mob, Teddy is simultaneously being pursued by two contract killers.

One of the would-be assassins, Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler), has managed to get himself arrested in order to get close to his target. The other, Anthony Lamb (Toby Huss), comes calling in the guise of a mild-mannered balloon salesman. Whereas Bob is a cool professional, and at least somewhat civilized, his rival is an outright psychopath.

Plot developments force Valerie to put her trust in one or the other of the imprisoned malefactors and the behavior that follows her choice reveals much about each of them. As Carnahan and McLeod explore the complex moral shadings of the situation, they also evoke the aesthetics of the early 1970s.

Those grown-ups willing to look past the sometimes-brutal mayhem unleashed as the story progresses will at least be rewarded by an ethically solid conclusion. Even so, what "Copshop" has in store is too seamy for most moviegoers.

The film contains much graphic, bloody violence, including torture, a vengeance theme, numerous profanities, about a half-dozen milder oaths, pervasive rough and crude language and an obscene image. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.