Warner Bros. // 2010 // 107 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // July 29th, 2010
Rock out with your glock out.
Yes, the first film directed by -- but not written by -- Kevin Smith earned him the worst reviews of his career, inspiring some pretty angry "how dare he even try?" invective. Is it as bad as everyone says?
An affectionate homage to the mostly disreputable buddy cop movies of the 1980s, Cop Out casts Bruce Willis (The Jackal) and Tracy Morgan (Deep in the Valley) as mismatched partners on the police force who wind up suspended when a bust goes wrong. That doesn't stop them from pursuing a case that combines a missing Mercedes with mysterious contents in the trunk, a Mexican drug lord (Guillermo Diaz of Weeds, giving a performance from another planet), Tracy Morgan's possibly unfaithful wife (played by Rashida Jones of I Love You, Man) and Bruce Willis' stolen baseball card, which -- wouldn't you know it? -- he needs to sell to pay for his daughter's $50,000 wedding. It's nothing that can't be solved with a whole bunch of swearing and some well-placed gunfire.
The most amazing thing about the 2010 buddy cop comedy Cop Out is that I don't actually hate it. Sure, the trailers were totally unfunny, word of mouth was nothing less than dismal and while I've been a fan of director Kevin Smith in the past, this is the first film he's directed but not written (the script is courtesy of Robb and Mark Cullen). Directing -- that is, knowing where to place the camera, stage a scene and put a film together -- has never been his strong suit. Still, while the film doesn't quite work -- and it doesn't -- I could at least see what Smith was trying to accomplish, and I have to give him credit for the attempt.
Here's the thing about Kevin Smith: while most filmmakers draw their inspiration from the master directors and classic films that preceded them, Smith seems inspired by the stuff he watched on cable growing up. That sets the bar pretty low for a movie like Cop Out, which isn't just content to be another formulaic buddy cop comedy, but actually aspires to it. There's no cliche of the genre that Smith leaves out, and while some of the touches work (like the competing cops played by Adam Brody and Kevin Pollack or the cool synthesizer score by "Axel F" composer Harold Faltermeyer), the movie is way too long and way too unfunny to work as a whole. That I enjoyed it as much as I did (and I have to admit, I found it totally watchable) is more a function of my own affection for the buddy cop genre -- I liked spotting all of the little homages just as much as I felt comforted by them. In that respect, I guess I'm the audience for Cop Out, in that I've been a fan of Smith's in the past and I already like the genre. The problem here is that another filmmaker, Edgar Wright, has already done a similar thing much, much better with Hot Fuzz. That's a brilliant film, expertly directed and not only aspires to the level of art but actually achieves it. Smith, ever the underachiever, is doing Hot Fuzz half-assed. He's got a sense of rhythm in the dialogue exchanges (several of which go on too long and miss the mark) and his action isn't totally incompetent, but that's about the best I can say. Smith still gets in his own way as a director; one scene, involving a character being dragged behind a car, should be really funny but is so poorly staged that it falls flat.
Then there are the performances. Bruce Willis can play this kind of role in his sleep, and basically does in Cop Out; actually, almost the entire cast seems to be embarrassed about being the movie. As if to make up for Willis' lack of enthusiasm, Tracy Morgan pushes his performance way beyond the breaking point; for at least the first half of the film, he's so aggressively over the top he literally spits all over the other actors. He and Willis don't feel convincing as friends or partners of nearly a decade (Willis actually seems to downright detest , and, at times, Tracy Morgan doesn't even feel convincing as a cop or even as a human being. Morgan's an actor who needs clear limits and strong material (that's why he's so funny on 30 Rock), but for a good chunk of Cop Out he's allowed to run rampant over the film. Thankfully, he eventually settles down and becomes more of an actual human being. That's when he starts earning the few laughs there are to be found in the movie. His exchanges with Seann William Scott (Southland Tales), playing the parkour-practicing drug addict who steals Willis' prized baseball card, are the fastest and funniest in the movie, and the two generate a chemistry that's otherwise missing from the two leads.
Warner Bros. Blu-ray of Cop Out looks pretty good, presented in the film in full 1080p HD transfer in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Detail is strong overall and the film's naturalistic colors are well represented, though there are some issues (including unwanted noise and disappointing black levels that aren't as deep as they ought to be) that keep the disc from being anywhere near reference-grade. The DTS-HD Master Audio track fares somewhat better, in that it isn't plagued by any problems beyond the middling standards set by the rest of the movie. Dialogue is clear and clean and kept mostly up front, where the majority of the audio track is directed. Some of the shootouts and action set pieces are more involving, and Harold Faltermeyer's excellent synth score gets a fair shake, but for the most part the audio of Cop Out appears to have the same low ambitions as the film. Everyone seems interested in only doing the bare minimum.
What sets the Cop Out Blu-ray apart from other titles -- and what will make it a must-own for fans of Kevin Smith (even those left cold by Cop Out) -- is the disc's most significant special feature called "Maximum Comedy Mode." Like the fantastic "Maximum Movie Mode" that has appeared on several other Warner Bros. titles, the feature replaces the standard commentary track and instead features Smith on camera pausing the film to discuss it, fast forwarding and rewinding and sometimes even overlapping himself (at one point, three different Kevin Smiths appear on screen to talk over one another). The feature also branches off to include deleted scenes in their appropriate spot within the film (making it almost like a different cut), as well as alternate lines of dialogue, outtakes and bloopers. Watching Cop Out in "Maximum Comedy Mode" actually takes about three hours, what with all the diversions and pauses, but it's a really interesting and revealing look into Smith's process. If you're wondering how he made so many wrongheaded decisions with Cop Out, you'll get your answers here; Smith is incredibly confident in his choices and very upfront about his intentions in making an homage to '80s buddy cop movies. He doesn't spend any time addressing what's wrong with the movie and never discusses the negative reaction the movie got (save for one throwaway comment), which is odd considering how much time he spent defending the movie online when it first came out. It's unfortunate that the movie doesn't have a commentary track, as Smith's tracks are often more entertaining than his movies, but the "Maximum Comedy Mode" is a great feature and a unique glimpse into how this kind of studio movie is put together. I'd argue it has appeal even outside of Smith's usual fan base.
Unfortunately, the deleted material and outtakes cannot be viewed outside of the "Maximum Comedy Mode" option, which is a mistake. What can be viewed separately are the nine "Focus Point" featurettes (which can be viewed in "Maximum Comedy Mode" via a branching option). They're mostly a waste of time, however, covering various aspects of the production in the usual EPK style -- only with more cursing.
In the end, Cop Out is a mess (Smith's decision to edit the film himself is possibly more crippling than his direction), but not exactly a total train wreck. It does suggest that Smith isn't going to have much of a career as a commercial director-for-hire and that Tracy Morgan may not be a movie star; at least, not yet. It will certainly rank near the bottom of the comedian buddy cop genre, and that's not a particularly distinguished group of films. It's really just a faithfully made, bad imitation of the '80s staple, begging the question: if you want to watch an '80s buddy cop comedy, why would you watch this one? Better off revisiting 48 Hrs. or Running Scared -- one of the genre entries that actually works.
Not the disaster it's made out to be, but still not a success.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Maximum Comedy Mode
* Official Site