Directed by Joe Carnahan.
Starring Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo, Alexis Louder, Toby Huss, Ryan O’Nan, Robert Walker-Branchaud, Kaiwi Lyman, Marshall Cook, Chad L. Coleman, Keith Jardine, Christopher Michael Holley, and Tracey Bonner.
On the run from a lethal assassin, a wily con artist devises a scheme to hide out inside a small-town police station-but when the hitman turns up at the precinct, an unsuspecting rookie cop finds herself caught in the crosshairs.
Co-writer/director Joe Carnahan continues to have a solid year (having already released a take on Groundhog Day that draws inspiration from videogame shooter culture), now with Copshop, a Nevada-set thriller pitting a small-town police station crew against various fixers and assassins that use shady undercover methods to not only get inside the building but locked up in the holding cell to be closer to their targets. It’s a clever premise that sees an exciting combination of testosterone-fueled action star power in Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo either punching officers or faking disorderly drunkenness to get thrown inside a cell. To what end also remains a compelling mystery, drip-feeding relevant information at a tight pace
Surprisingly, there’s a more exciting third wheel in the form of police officer Valerie (Alexis Louder, turning in a gritty, ferocious, and resilient performance that ranks her right up alongside her two grizzled veteran co-stars and should earn her similar physical roles in the future), working at the station and finding herself further embroiled in the nature behind the arrests and long night. In a male-dominated field, she also holds her own with her counterparts, demonstrating immense knowledge and handling of firearms (it’s also noteworthy that there turns out to be a purpose to characters talking about different techniques), attitude, resourcefulness, and intimidation. Maybe it’s blasphemy to say, but if you’re coming for Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo, don’t be surprised if you leave shouting the praises of Alexis Louder, eager to see her get more action work immediately.
An assortment of officers also surrounds Valerie, ranging from her Sergeant (Chad L. Coleman) and troopers, each with their own distinct personality (anything from dimwitted to gunslinger to corrupt), making for some amusing camaraderie among everyone. When not joking around, they do what they can to identify their John Doe (Gerard Butler) and try to figure out what Frank Grillo’s Teddy Muretto could be wrapped up in so dangerously that a jail cell is his course of action. Naturally, as she learns more about the situation, it becomes a question of who she can trust more.
Of course, confinement doesn’t stop Gerard Butler’s character from looking for ways to attack Teddy from a distance. There are inexplicable fire alarms, the arrival of a genuine psychopath in the form of an eccentric and gleefully violent Toby Huss, and a traitorous detective ready to ensure Valerie doesn’t ask any more questions. Aside from a few flashbacks, Copshop is a one-location feature that makes the most of that setting for suspense, which increases when it becomes clear that characters can be brutally murdered at any time. The script (from Kurt McLeod and Joe Carnahan) also isn’t as predictable as one might think, as Frank Grillo and Gerard Butler are both so adept at playing scumbag killers that you’re not really sure which one still has a working moral compass and cares about protecting injured lives.
Around halfway, Copshop appears as if it’s going to amplify the roles of Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo in a way that lessens the tense presence of Alexis Louder, but the filmmakers are thankfully aware that she is the real character to follow here. Even when the final shootout sequences are going on a bit too long (come on, Joe Carnahan, you set up the perfect last kill moment but then unnecessarily keep the fight going), subsequently dragging the film across the finish line (it’s a 109-minute movie that could easily be 90 and better for it), there is still joy in knowing that the story didn’t wrongly reposition itself. It’s also worth pointing out that the story itself is entirely forgettable and just meant to throw viewers off on who to trust, but it’s clear the filmmakers were striving for contained corrupt thrills, down-and-dirty violence, and momentous carnage. It sustains that killer tension even when its predictable elements start to show. Copshop is one badass rush of adrenaline populated with badass talent and bite.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com