What began life with the title “A Couple of Dicks” (the studio nixed that) eventually came to theaters as “Cop Out” with the promise of being a hilarious buddy cop movie that was directed by Kevin Smith. Yes, the same Kevin Smith who directed “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” among others. It certainly had potential, but would it live up to the reputation of its cast and director?
Jimmy (Bruce Willis) and Paul (Tracy Morgan) have been partners on the NYPD for nine years. After they take it upon themselves to attempt a take-down of a huge drug cartel and fail miserably, they are suspended for thirty days without pay. This certainly doesn’t help Jimmy who needed that money to fund his daughter’s expensive dream wedding. Sure, his ex-wife’s new husband, Roy (Jason Lee) could easily pay for it, but Jimmy is her real father and wants to make her happy without asking Roy for help. Jimmy decides that he must sell his prized mint condition baseball card that is worth about $80,000.
As Jimmy takes it in to his friend who has found a buyer for it, the store he is in gets robbed and the card goes missing. Now, Jimmy and Paul embark on a mission to find this vital card. Will they find it, cracking a series of robberies in the process? Will they also take down the Mexican gangs terrorizing Brooklyn? Will Jimmy be able to salvage his pride and provide for his daughter? Will Paul find out once and for all if his wife is cheating on him?
Kevin Smith has become synonymous with creating characters that are pop-culture savvy, quick-witted and often quite profane. His obvious strength as a filmmaker is centered around his writing skills. By his own admission, some of his direction has been the equivalent to placing the camera in one spot and capturing his characters as simply as possible. This makes him a slightly odd choice to direct a big budget Hollywood picture. Kevin Smith movies have almost always been exercises in economy. Huge amounts of studio money means more can be done, but also a certain amount of control is forfeited because studios have preconceived notions about what is successful. Sometimes they are right but sometimes executives are painfully clueless.
With all of that said, Smith doesn’t do a bad job. It’s hardly a masterful job, though. Some of the early scenes with gangland villain Poh Boy (Guillermo Diaz) have an odd, handheld, faux-gritty look while the rest of the film is relatively straightforward. On that note, a lot of angles in certain scenes are a little strange, a few lines here and there probably should have retaken, and some scenes seem to end abruptly, like they were edited by a beginner (that one falls of Smith). It’s relatively new to him, but some of the action sequences were missing the panache of a more seasoned director. He has utilizes the leads well and obviously has a respectable knowledge of the action genre, but there is little new here. Smith seems to find his footing a bit more as the story progresses, which is a relief.
He didn’t write the script which is uneven, but he certainly incorporated a lot of elements that he has become known for into the story. Honestly, it’s hard to know who to credit the funny parts to: Smith or the writers because the story sometimes feels very stock and uninspired. It’s as if Smith was given a action/comedy template and decided every so often to insert a poo joke or genital reference or movie quote(s) just to let the audience know that he is in control. It really makes you wonder what the script would have been like if Smith had written it himself.
Bruce Willis is a pro at playing a cop by now. No need to worry about him. Tracy Morgan is the X-factor here. A lot of the funnier quotes and gags belong to him, but his delivery and style is either your cup of tea or not. Seann William Scott’s card-stealing criminal, Dave, has many of the movie’s funniest scenes, especially those where he is in the backseat of the car after being apprehended by Jimmy and Paul. His antagonism of Paul is a sight to behold.
There are a few other pleasant surprises included in the form of the actors who were cast. Fans of Saturday Night Live and Kevin Smith movies will especially benefit from paying attention.
Special features include: nothing on the rental edition. There are a few deleted scenes if you buy the movie.
If you like buddy cop flicks and want to entertain a large group of people, “Cop Out” might be an appropriate choice. Most of the above criticisms come from a guy who has seen too many of these types of films and notices too many similarities among them. It is a different kind of film for Kevin Smith and it was a big opportunity for him. Maybe it will open more doors for him or perhaps it will just reaffirm the beliefs of many that he operates most efficiently on a small-scale.
While it has a lot of technical flaws, the film is reasonably funny and packs in enough action to give casual fans what they want. Besides, very few of these movies are ever Oscar worthy in the traditional sense so some of their formulaic nature and bounds of logic can be forgiven. At least it’s a lot better than “The Bounty Hunter.”
Rated R 107 minutes 2010
“Cop Out” will be available to rent/purchase in Allentown, the Lehigh Valley and beyond.