Directed by: Kevin Smith
Starring: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Sean William Scott, Guillermo Díaz, Kevin Pollak
As of late, Kevin Smith has gotten more attention for not being able to fit in an airplane seat than he has for directing his latest film, Cop Out. Regardless of one’s opinion of Smith, he’s still a bankable director in his little niche of geeky kitsch, but the studio has barely attached his name to any of the Cop Out‘s promotions. A quick glance at the movie’s credits shows us that this is truly a Kevin Smith film in name only. Sure, he’s behind the camera, but Smith has never been the most stylish of directors. He’s been cinematic approximately once in his career (the “ABC” sequence in Clerks II (2006)); his appeal has always been tied to his writing.
So when Smith the writer has been replaced with a couple of TV scribes (Robb and Mark Cullen) and we only get Smith the director, dollars to donuts says it’s not going to be pretty. And it’s not. Cop Out and its resurrection of ‘80s buddy-cop formula isn’t savvy enough to be good, and it’s too dull to be actively bad, instead straddling that no man’s land of the regrettably unremarkable that fills $5 DVD bins around the world.
It’s a pity, because there’s the sense that had Smith himself penned the film and put his own spin on a long-tired genre, maybe something entertaining would’ve come out. Instead, we get a regurgitation of old tropes. The film is neither spoof nor homage (beyond a Harold Faltermeyer score that basically recycles his old Beverly Hills Cop (1984) tunes). Instead, the movie is played straight and by the book, making Cop Out all the more uneventful. Bruce Willis is Jimmy and Tracy Morgan is Paul, two suspended cops (suspended because they’re of the hotshot, borderline incompetent variety) on the trail of an extremely rare—and expensive—baseball card that was stolen from Jimmy during a robbery. Since this card is Jimmy’s ticket to being able to afford his daughter’s (Michelle Trachtenberg, Eurotrip) wedding, both cops look to hunt it down before it’s too late.
The plot beyond this point is supposed to be a complicated affair, where the trail of the baseball card leads to an ever-unraveling series of events involving Mexican drug cartels, a drug lord by the name of Poh Boy (Guillermo Díaz, Half Baked), a cat burglar (Sean William Scott), kidnapping, car chases and general movie mayhem. The issue here is that the film is never as clever as it really wants to be, relying too often on contrivances and a lack of new ideas.
There are flashes of Smith smattered about, from a small Jason Lee role, to the requisite Star Wars and comic-book nods, to the occasional vaguely raunchy punch line. Unfortunately, these are not the qualities anyone really wants out of Smith. Mostly what we get is Beverly Hills Cop, 48 Hours (1982) and a host of other nearly three-decade-old junk that few were yearning to remember. As anything other than the straightforward approach that’s been dragged into movie theaters—spoof, send-up, reimagining, whatever—Cop Out would’ve at least had a chance. However, it’s all ultimately one big waste, from the cast, to the director and to a genre that never needed to be resurrected in the first place. Rated R for pervasive language, including sexual references, violence and brief sexuality.