Cop Out – Movie Review
There’s a certain temptation to just say that this week’s films – the other being the ridiculously awesome Kick-Ass - have all lived up to their names and go onto more fulfilling work. But no, you’ve got to take the good with the bad, and this one falls firmly into the latter category. Cop Out is a mess, a lurching, uncomfortable vat-born hybrid that should never have been allowed to escape the lab. It’s not funny enough to be a comedy, not exciting enough to be an action movie, and stands as a low point in the careers of all concerned.
Bruce Willis and Tracey Morgan are two maverick cops whose names the audience will never bother to remember, but in the script are referred to as Jimmy Monroe and Paul Hodges, respectively. After being suspended (yet again, I guess we’re supposed to think) for their screwball antics, Jimmy attempts to sell a valuable baseball card in order to pay for his daughter’s wed…
You know what? Forget it. The plot is way too convoluted, with too many MacGuffins to keep track of (baseball card, car, beautiful Mexican immigrant, crucifix pendant). If the plot just served to get us from action beat to action beat, that’d be fine, but there are maybe three action sequences in the entire film, all about as pedestrian as a televised chess match. Alternatively, if the comedy worked, we wouldn’t be worried about the plot – rule of funny always applies, so who cares as long as we’re laughing? Sadly, although there are some chuckles to be had from Morgan’s antics, and one funny scene with a child car thief, everything else pretty much falls flat.
I haven’t read it, but I have to hazard a guess and say that the problem lies with the script. Director Smith didn’t write this – which is a first for him – and apparently decided to do the film in order to see if he could function as a jobbing director, as opposed to the lo-fi auteur he’s known as. Now, I should probably state at this point that I’m a Kevin Smith fan, and I can generally find something I like in all of his work thus far. But here, my fannish loyalty deserts me. I can’t see what Smith saw in this story that was worth filming, and he certainly fails to bring anything of value to the material; without engaging dialogue to focus on, we’re left with his ability to direct action to sustain us, and sadly, that just isn’t Smith’s forte. He himself has often lamented the static nature of his earlier films’ cinematography, but here his attempts to inject pace and drama just fail abysmally. Whatever career direction Smith moves in next, he’s no action director.
One of the key problems here is that no-one involved seems to agree on what kind of film Cop Out is meant to be. Smith is trying to homage the classic 80s buddy cop films of his youth, going so far as to recruit Harold Faltermyer to handle scoring duties. Willis seems to agree mostly with this, although leans more towards playing his part completely straight. Morgan, on the other hand, is from another world entirely, playing everything big, broad, and off the wall. Their characters simply don’t belong in the same universe; in Willis’ world, Morgan would be institutionalised, not given a gun and a badge. We’re also meant to believe that these two have been partners for nine years, but their chemistry is non-existent to the point that it’s hard to believe that they’ve known each other for nine minutes. Hell, I’d go so far as to say the actors flat-out loathed each other; at the very least, Willis seems ready to punch Morgan more than once throughout the proceedings.
The rest of the cast are just kind of there, doing what they do. Adam Brody and Kevin Pollak are just wasted as fellow cops Hunsecker and Mangold, Michelle Trachtenberg and Jason Lee turn up in small, thankless roles for no reason I can think of, and Guillermo Diaz struggles manfully to bring weight and threat to his thinly sketched villain. And then there’s Seann William Scott, who lends his absurd parkour-practicing petty thief some brand-recognition, and that’s about it. Seriously, the most notable thing about his appearance is that his parkour stunt double is noticeably thinner than him.
It’s been painful to write this review, because I genuinely want and expect good work from Kevin Smith, and it’s disappointing when he doesn’t deliver. In this case, though, Smith has brought us the worst film of his career, and I’m stymied as to where he’s going to go next. The sophomore antics of Jay & Silent Bob can’t sustain him forever, and as an experimental toe-dip into the larger world of filmmaking, Cop Out is an absolute failure. I wouldn’t play this in between waterboardings at Abu Ghraib, so I certainly won’t recommend it to you. Revisit the Jersey Series instead.
Militant Kevin Smith fans with no sense of perspective are invited to spew their vitriol below.
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