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  Cop Out

Starring: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Pollack, Jason Lee, Rashida Jones

Directed by: Kevin Smith

Produced by: Polly Cohen Johnsen, Marc Platt, Michael Tadross

Written by: Mark Cullen, Rob Cullen

Distributor: Warner Bros.

     The worst kind of film parody is one that takes a bad set of movies for its subjects and, rather than perceptively spoofing their pathetic qualities, becomes so enamored with them that it ends up just as bad a movie itself. Such is the case with Cop Out, which is actually less a parody of than a throwback to ‘80s buddy cop movies, but it boasts the same sort of comedic incompetence that the latest Scary Movie sequels have. The real kicker here is that most of the movies Cop Out is paying homage to (“hahm-age” as Tracy Morgan’s character pronounces it) were actually pretty good, and spoofing their ridiculousness only shows that writers Robb and Mark Cullen and director Kevin Smith didn’t get the joke in the first place. 

     The Cullen Brothers and Smith might argue that their intention with Cop Out was simply to make a nostalgic ode to basic-cable standards like Lethal Weapon and 48 Hrs., evidenced by their choice of a Harold Faltermeyer (“Axel F”) score. But to view the film as such—not a parody—only makes it seem more unnecessary. With clichéd buddy cop movies still coming out every year (Rush Hour 3 and Sherlock Holmes are among the latest), there’s hardly a need for another one that may or may not know it’s actually bad. In fact, it seems as if the Cullens and Smith constantly feel that they have to prove to the audience that they’re alluding to clichés and not actually implementing them – never a good sign. The perfect example of this comes in an opening interrogation scene, in which Bruce Willis spells out nearly every one of the dozen movie references Tracy Morgan makes.

     Of course, that’s not to say that the idea behind Cop Out was doomed from the start. The beloved british trio Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost made an hilarious send-up to the same genre in 2007’s Hot Fuzz. But part of the reason that film worked was because it had a soul of its own, something new to add to the police procedural in addition to all its references. Cop Out, on the other hand, consists of just one frantic nod after another. The basic premise: after being suspended from duty due to reckless police-work, Willis’ Jimmy finds himself in hot water trying to pay for his daughter’s wedding. He decides to sell a highly valuable baseball card he’s had since childhood, only to have it stolen just before collecting the money. This leads he and Morgan’s Paul to investigate the case against the orders of their superiors, only to discover a complex web of crime involving drugs and a sports memorabilia-obsessed kingpin. It’s admittedly an OK template, but the rest of the writing just sucks. Putting the last nail in the coffin is the fact that none of the movie’s many potential-filled ingredients work well together.

     What do I mean by that? First and foremost, it was a huge mistake for filmmaker Kevin Smith to take on this job, his first time directing a movie he didn’t write. The fact of the matter is that Smith just isn’t a very good director from a technical standpoint; his movies have always been poorly paced and awkwardly staged. Smith’s work is usually enjoyable for its heart, not its pedigree. Coupled with the bad script, the director’s approach here feels like a sensory assault -- Cop Out often verges on incoherent from the first scenes. Even more unfortunate: the immensely talented Willis and Morgan have Zero chemistry together. Whether they were just not able to make anything of the poorly constructed characters or whether Smith was unable to direct them properly, it’s tough to tell. But their interplay just consists of a bunch of talking over one another; there isn’t a spark to be found between them. For a buddy cop movie to work, it’s a given that the audience has to buy the two buddies. This is yet another department in which Cop Out fails.

    Are there any bright spots in Cop Out? Sure, but they are not nearly enough to make up for the movie’s failures. Seann William Scott delivers the best material in the movie as an ADD, parkour-employing thief who’s essential to Jimmy and Paul’s case. Rashida Jones is attractive and bubbly as ever as Paul’s wife, whom he suspects is having an affair with the neighbor. And Jason Lee actually hits the right notes in parodying an ‘80s cop movie prototype: the viciously successful stepdad who wants to steal Jimmy’s thunder by paying for his daughter’s wedding. Alas, it’s too bad that Cop Out couldn’t have been as good on the whole as these performances are. What we actually get is an unfunny, uninteresting mess.


-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 3.3.2010


Cop Out is rated R and runs 107 minutes.

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