Thoughts on… Cop Out (2010)

Cop Out, 2010.

Directed by Kevin Smith.
Starring Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Sean William-Scott and Adam Brody.

Cop Out Kevin Smith

When a veteran NYPD cop’s rare baseball card – his only hope to pay for his daughter’s upcoming wedding – is stolen, he recruits his partner to track down the thief, a memorabilia-obsessed gangster.

Cop Out Kevin Smith
Two buddies and long-term cop partners Jimmy (Willis) and Paul (Morgan) get suspended without pay from a case after proving that their policing skills are perhaps a little too maverick for their own good. This throws Jimmy into a dilemma as he has promised to pay for his daughter’s upcoming wedding and needs to raise the money through other means before his daughters smug, cash-flashing step-father (Jason Lee) finances the wedding himself. He decides to sell a rare baseball card but his plan is immediately thwarted after the card is stolen by a loud-mouth mugger (William-Scott) and sold to a notorious Mexican gangster with a penchant for baseball memorabilia. Jimmy and Paul set out on a mission to retrieve the baseball card whilst simultaneously entangling themselves within the messy world of the gangsters they are trying to track down.

Kevin Smith usually exercises a talent of being able to combine gross out humour with funny, likeable characters and a plot that usually has some point, or at least some heart to it. Unfortunately, Cop Out seems largely devoid of any such talent. It’s the first film that Smith has directed but not written, and I think this might be the main, even if it’s not the only problem with the movie. It boisterously crashes through its storyline without giving much time for any of the events to actually mean a great deal. I’m not saying that each audience member should be desperately longing with all their heart and soul for Jimmy to get his baseball card back, but in Smith’s other films – for example his last effort Zack and Miri Make a Porno – the leads are easy to warm to and you usually find yourself rooting for them pretty quickly.

I think the absence of this in Cop Out is not only down to the heavy handed plot and largely poor dialogue but also due to the fact that the actors just aren’t doing a particularly good job, or perhaps just haven’t been directed that well. Some of the characters are cartoonish and exaggerated to a point that’s beyond humorously appropriate and just becomes irritating. It doesn’t take long before you find yourself wishing that Tracy Morgan’s wacky, screechy, wise-cracking Paul was bound and gagged in a padded cell and on a heavy dose of Ritalin, instead of still bull-dozing around on the screen in front of you. And it seems as though Jason Lee only needs to have a long black moustache to twiddle between his fingers to complete his relatively unconvincing performance as the uber-conceited step-father. Other actors swing in the opposite direction and spend the film teetering on the edge of the persona they are trying to take on. Bruce Willis is supposed, I think, to be playing the slightly cooler, more cynical, but still fairly incompetent, one of the pair – but ends up impersonating a wardrobe that can occasionally fire a gun.

Despite what I’ve said so far, the film isn’t all that bad. It’s still vaguely entertaining in parts and there are one or two laughs to be had, although they aren’t exactly rib-cracking moments that will stay with you long after you’ve left the cinema. There were several occasions in the film that had the potential to be funny but were let down by lazy writing. For example; at the very beginning of the film Paul interrogates a suspect using various famous lines from well-known movies, a scene that could have been quite amusing if it weren’t for the awkward and clunky cuts to Jimmy watching behind the dark glass, who helpfully names each film for us like an IMDB robot. Later on in the film, Paul rambles on to Jimmy for a while about his bowel movements – a speech that Smith may have been able to bring some humour to if he had written it himself – but essentially just comes across as an annoying man talking annoyingly about his annoying poo.

If you literally just want to have something in front of face that fills an hour and a half then perhaps Cop Out would fit the bill, as regardless of what I’ve said I can’t really accuse it of being boring – there’s so much going on it actually manages to be fairly engaging even if only on a superficial level. However I believe that there will probably be quite a few Kevin Smith fans out there that are going to be disappointed. Hopefully next time he’ll stick to telling his own stories instead of other people’s.

Amy Flinders

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