It is easy to say, “They just don’t make movies like they used to.” These days it seems like everyone wants to recapture some sort of fake nostalgia for times that weren’t so great in the first place. The latest is Kevin Smith’s Cop Out, which tries to bottle the 1980’s buddy-cop action comedy magic from classics like Downtown, Running Scared, or Turner & Hooch, but ends up with something that plays more like a TV pilot for a series no one bothered to pick up.
Smith makes his intentions crystal clear early on as NYPD Detective Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan) interrogates a suspect using quotes lifted out of everything from Heat to Schindler’s List. Hodges tells his partner Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) that he isn’t stealing the lines he’s paying “homage” to the films. Smith tries to do just that to that buddy cop genre, but typically an homage is meant to show respect and the amateurish nature of the whole picture does little to that effect. The piece of the film that comes even close to the mark is the synth score courtesy of Harold Faltermeyer, who is best known as the composer of Axl F, the earworm worthy theme song from Beverly Hills Cop.
Willis and Morgan, both huge talents in their own rights, have no business being on screen together. Chemistry between the two, who play partners who have been together for nine years, is non-existent. Of the duo Willis has an already established reputation on film and has little to lose, but for Morgan he is just now trying to expand his resume, looking for some sort of star potential, and this could have been a big break for him. As such Morgan finds his way into the funnier nooks and crannies of the script making his character watchable only because of his natural comedic talent, and Willis seems to be phoning this one in from the line at the bank.
Of the supporting cast Seann William Scott is the only one that does much with his character as the parkour jumping, wise cracking thief. Kevin Pollack and Adam Brody play the rival detectives, Hunsaker and Mangold, ubiquitous to this type of film, and have only a smidgen more believable relationship than the leads. As the drug dealing villain, Poh Boy, Guillermo Díaz recreates his character from Weeds with just a lot more ham.
The writing doesn’t help matters much. The script from Robb and Mark Cullen is about as flat as the paper on which it was printed. The stakes in the picture are so thin as to be translucent, and they toss in a couple too many McGuffins for the audience to really care about any of them. Are they after the drug dealer, the Mercedes, the baseball card, the jump drive, or the beautiful Mexican woman? As for humor the funniest thing about the film was the original title, A Couple of Dicks, which the studio made Smith change.
Add to that Smith’s clumsy direction and boring editing. Since his first picture, Clerks, it was obvious that the Smith’s talent lay in writing. The dialogue alone in that picture, and his underrated follow up, Mallrats, could have solidified his career as a top screen writer. However Cop Out marks the first picture that Smith has made for which he did not serve as the writer. Had this movie been a success it could have proven Smith as a go-to gun for hire in Hollywood, but unfortunately the film is clunky, poorly paced, and nothing he should ever include on his director’s reel.
El Luchador Rating: 1 out of 5
Review By: Paul S. Myers (a.k.a. El Luchador)