Cop Out

Cop OutSynopsis: Action star Bruce Willis and ace comic Tracy Morgan play bickering-but-got-your-back Brooklyn buddy cops. Kevin Smith directs this gritty, goofball goings-on as the guys hunt for a stolen 1952 mint-condition baseball card, a hunt plunging them into a gunslinging war with a deadly drug ring: Batter up, fans. The boys are ready to take you out to the ol’ brawl game!

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Cop Out 5.25

eyelights: the long shots of cityscapes. Sean William Scott. the retro soundtrack.
eyesores: the paint-by-numbers script. the unfunny gags and one-liners. the poor performances.

“Bless me father, for I’m about to sin.”

‘Cop Out’ is the first film that Kevin Smith has not written himself. Featuring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, it’s a buddy-cop movie of the genre that were a dime a dozen in the ’80s. Except not very funny. Or exciting. And certainly not original.

I knew that going in, of course: reviews for it were appalling, and although it was Smith’s highest-grossing picture ever, it isn’t exactly the biggest box office winner, raking in 50% more than it cost to make. It’s largely been forgotten and it now litters the landscape in dust bins.

But I’m a fan of Smith and I eventually convinced myself to see it – but mostly because there is this one exceptional special feature on the blu-ray that has Smith interact with the picture, talking about its making, and adding extended scenes and other fun stuff along the way.

Since Smith is usually an engrossing orator and storyteller, I figured that this could very well make up for the movie if I didn’t like it. But I started to hope that maybe I would find something in it that I would dig that others didn’t. After all, I’ve liked all his films thus far.

Oh well, they can’t all be winners.

Originally titled ‘A Couple of Dicks’ (and subsequently changed by Warners Bros. because corporations just don’t have any balls), the picture is a cookie-cutter action comedy buddy picture about a couple of cops who get wrapped up trying rescue a Mexican woman from some local thugs.

The writing is so lackluster that pretty much every trite convention is given screen time:

  • One white cop, one black cop – CHECK!
  • One straight cop, one goofy cop – CHECK!
  • Our protagonists trample all over their police force rivals’ investigation by mistake – CHECK!
  • Hard luck hero – CHECK!

…etc.
…etc.
…etc.

Furthermore, it is utterly predictable. Some (like director Kevin Smith) would apologetically claim “homage”, but some of us would accusingly retort “fromage”:

  • Our protagonists get their badges and guns revoked – CHECK!
  • Willis’ character has a priceless baseball card, on which his daughter’s wedding ceremony hinges. Will something happen to it? (I’ll give you three guesses!) – CHECK!
  • One partner disagrees with the other, but always ends up doing exactly that which he aggressively refused to do (haha). – CHECK!
  • Our protagonists are lauded by their boss at the end – CHECK!

The writing is so poor, in fact, that it’s filled with awkward exposition. (Oh, sure, maybe that also falls under “genre convention”, but, really, you can simply chalk it up to “$#!tty screenplay” – just like most of the ’80s buddy cop movies, actually):

  • Morgan does this bad cop routine, taking cues from pop culture, and Willis has to tell the audience which movies they’re from because, otherwise, the joke would be lost. Not that a cop of his sort would know all the references in real life, but anyway.
  • When the pair are in their boss’ office, Morgan has to explain to Willis where the drugs are coming from – as if he didn’t know. But I guess the audience might not, so Willis got a lecture. Not that knowing where the drugs were from was in any way relevant, but whatever.
  • Poh Boy and his brother confer about the trouble that they’re in, and Poh Boy basically recounts all sorts of background info and stuff that the audience needs to know, as though his brother had never been briefed before. *shakes head*

To make matters even worse, ‘Cop Out’ has its fair share of stupid.. erm…. “funny” routines:

  • The endless and phenomenally horrid “bad cop” routine at the beginning, which had Morgan shouting and trying to scare their suspect into spilling the beans instead of actually interrogating him.
  • The cel phone stakeout, which had Morgan dressed as a cel phone, giving out flyers outside while waiting for a suspect to show up. It was unsubtle, unfunny, and it reminded me of the ghastly opening sequences of ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ and ‘Lethal Weapon 4’.
  • To annoy their rivals, Morgan and Willis do this moronic telephone bit where Morgan calls Willis in front of them, and start insulting them – as though they were having a private phone conversation. It was sophomoric and rather unfunny.

Bizarrely enough, this script was considered one of the best unproduced script of 2008. Go figure. Well, either 2008 must have been a rock bottom year in Hollywood, or there was a LOT of re-writing that took place in the two years before it got produced – because there’s absolutely no way that what was shot would be considered “good”, let alone “best”.

When a script isn’t so hot, sometimes the cast can make up for it, giving heft to an otherwise lightweight script. ‘Cop Out’ had no such luck:

  • Bruce Willis is Bruce Willis, for good or bad. One way or another, he’s not at his best here.
  • Tracy Morgan SHOUTS ALL THE TIME. He’s unfunny, unsympathetic and unconvincing. He can’t even do action; it’s pathetic when he bothered to try. I wish that Chris Rock had done it instead. (Actually, the script was conceived as a vehicle for Robin Williams and James Gandolfini)
  • Jason Lee has a cameo. He looks seasoned here, but he still has a penchant for overacting.
  • Kevin Pollack is okay, not great.
  • Guillermo Diaz, who plays Poh Boy, is f-ing horrible; he can’t deliver a line worth his salt.

The only people worth watching here  are Rachida Jones and Sean William Scott – and they’re both very secondary characters. Jones is not just lovely to look at, but she is the only convincing actor of the lot. William Scott isn’t realistic, but at least he’s funny – his lines aren’t, but he makes more of the material than most would. He’s awesome, given what he’s working with.

Beyond these two, the only thing of any true value were the long shots of the city. Oh, sure, that was merely connecting material (that was likely shot by an assistant director), but they were slick and actually gave the film a more solid footing. And then there was the soundtrack, which was modeled after ’80s buddy cop action-comedies in the ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ vein. Heck, Harold Faltermeyer even did the score for it. No joke!

So, bottom line, ‘Cop Out’ isn’t great; there’s really not much to it that’s worth mentioning. Heck, I can’t even recommend this to Kevin Smith fans, given that his signature is nowhere to be found. It’s hardly the worst picture I’ve ever seen but, in this category, it’s nothing more than a middling effort, stealing not so great material and rehashing it in an even less convincing fashion. If anything, I would have called it ‘Crap In, Cop Out’.

Date of viewing: November 9, 2013

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