Opt Out of “Cop Out”
By Roxana Hadadi
If you didn’t already know that “Cop Out” was directed by Kevin Smith, then you probably couldn’t guess it. The man known for subversive indie flicks like “Clerks” and “Mallrats” was once also synonymous with absurd, goofy characters fraught with emotional uncertainty and ambition-lacking apathy – but now he’s causing a ruckus by capturing headlines for his public feud with Southwest Airlines and directing a buddy-cop movie with few funny moments and more painfully dragged-out ones. Downgrade.
To be fair, at least Smith didn’t write this movie – instead, it’s just one he’s been hired to direct. But his touch certainly doesn’t make the film any better. Instead, the experience veers between somewhat humorous and tediously boring, and most of the characters lack the kind of chemistry that would make this movie purely enjoyable. Honestly, the best thing about “Cop Out” is that the production company decided to change its original name, “A Couple of D—s.” Now that would have been rebellious, but probably not too family-friendly.
The film starts off on a good note, though, with a musical intro from the Beastie Boys. As their 1987 track “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” plays over scenes of the New York City borough, viewers meet officers Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) and Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan), who have been partners for nine years. Though Hodges gleefully presents Monroe with an anniversary card to celebrate their time together as “White Lightning” and “Black Thunder,” he’s really buttering him up so that Monroe will finally let Hodges play bad cop during an interrogation. Though Monroe is hesitant to do so because Hodges’s style is really just to “steal … bulls— lines” from cop movies, he relents – and one of the film’s only funny scenes is created.
Watching Morgan flail about, spitting famous lines from “Heat,” “Training Day,” “Star Wars,” “Schindler’s List,” “The Color Purple,” “An Officer and a Gentleman,” “Jaws,” “Beetlejuice,” “Scarface” and “Dirty Dancing” makes for a great beginning to a film, and Smith shows his self-referencing hand when he has Monroe tells Hodges, “You suck as an actor.” But that’s the film most hilarious highlight, and it never builds up to that level again.
Instead, “Cop Out” veers between boring scenes with bad guy Poh Boy (Guillermo Díaz, who did far better in TV shows “Weeds” and “Mercy”) and trying to develop Monroe and Hodges as actual people outside of their jobs. Monroe and Hodges have been assigned to corner drug dealer Poh Boy and bring down his growing empire, but instead, Poh Boy’s brother, Juan (Cory Fernandez), senses something is wrong during their sting and shoots up their informant – and the whole city block – in trying to get away. Some guy hanging out on the street uses his camera phone to film Hodges roughing up another kid to get his bike (to zanily chase Juan, of course!), and soon the clip is all over YouTube, leading to a 30-day suspension, without badges or pay, for the pair.
But since Monroe needs money to pay for his daughter’s nearly $50,000 dream wedding – to assert his connection with her and show up her stepfather Roy (a smarmy Jason Lee, another brief sign that Smith is running this show) – he decides to sell his father’s prized baseball card, an Andy Pavko, which recently in auction has fetched about $83,000. When he goes to sell the card, though, the store is held up by two robbers, including the heavily tattooed and Taser-happy Dave (a pretty funny Seann William Scott, “Role Models”) – and Hodges allows them to get away because he’s too busy frantically calling his wife, Debbie (Rashida Jones, “Parks and Recreation”), whom he fears is cheating on him with his neighbor.
And then, in a convoluted sequence of events, the card gets into Poh Boy’s hands; Monroe and Hodges strike a deal with him to get it back; and eventually find themselves entangled with a Mexican mistress, a teddy bear nanny cam and an investigation by fellow officers Mangold (Adam Brody, “Jennifer’s Body) and Hunsaker (Kevin Pollak, “Tropic Thunder”), who wrongly think Hodges may be a dirty cop. Of course, it’s up to the disgraced pair to make it all right.
It’s silly and sometimes funny, but that’s mainly because of Morgan, who is just so off-the-wall that it’s hard not to laugh at his antics. Much like he pretty much seems to play himself on NBC’s “30 Rock,” he also applies that “acting” “method” here. Whether he’s dressed up as a cell phone, giggling at Dave’s jokes about Monroe or incorrectly assuming that Gabriela (Ana de la Reguera, “Nacho Libre”), the woman he and Monroe saved out of the trunk of a car, wants to sleep with him, he’s one of the few bright spots in this otherwise lackluster film.
And as for everyone else … well, they’re there. Willis dials it in as a jaded cop who can’t bring himself to show his emotions to anyone, and though Scott is pretty humorous as the Parkour-practicing thief Dave, there’s not enough of him. Everyone else – including Jones, Brody and Díaz – are either forgettable or try so hard that it’s embarrassing.
The amount of for-grown-ups content that’s in the film is also sometimes embarrassing, including crude drawings of male genitalia, discussions about infidelity and rampant cursing and violence. There are car chases and torture scenes, implied sexual activity and your typical dirty jokes, so for older teens that have seen things like “Superbad” or “Knocked Up,” none of this is too surprising. For younger teens, though, a lot of this could be problematic.
And overall, “Cop Out” itself is really questionable. How badly did Smith need this paycheck? Probably a lot. How badly do you need to see this film? Not at all.
Roxana Hadadi last reviewed “Shutter Island.”