Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) and Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan) are the unlikeliest cop partnership you’ll ever see. Jimmy is a no-nonsense tough guy. Paul is kind of a goofy, doughy guy whose idea of the bad cop routine is to grab a suspect around the neck and start shouting gibberish quotes from all his favorite movies, even if “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for!” doesn’t fit the occasion. Still, somehow, the two have managed to thrive for nine years, probably because they’re so funny for the other cops to watch.
However, when Jimmy and Paul accidentally ruin a months-long investigation from the gang unit’s star detectives (Kevin Pollack and Adam Brody), the two find themselves suspended for 30 days without pay. Just in time for Jimmy’s daughter’s wedding, no less. When Jimmy goes to sell a rare baseball card and finds himself robbed by a petty thief and drug addict (Seann William Scott), things get a little out of hand. Jimmy and Paul find themselves tied into a missing Mercedes, a gang with dreams of cartel status and minor league baseball ownership, a girl in a trunk, and parkour.
There’s something I noticed about Bruce Willis during Cop Out. While he doesn’t look old, per se, he’s got lines on his face. Like, not just one crease on the brow, but actual lines that denote his age and relative experience level as an actor. That means, shock and horror, he’s not getting Botox! The miracle of someone in Hollywood accepting his age in a graceful manner rather than getting pulled tighter and tighter with every passing year cannot go unnoticed. With every little wrinkle, I respect Bruce Willis that much more. Kudos, sir.
Bruno is also about the perfect person you can get to play a cop, which is why he does these cop roles so well. He looks experienced, but tough. When he talks up being the bad cop, he’s great at it; he’s also got a wicked sense of comic timing, which helps him really work well opposite the madcap Tracy Morgan. Morgan can get easily overwhelming with his petulant, expressive voice, but fortunately he is restrained and uses it to punctuate his antics, rather than overpower them. The good straight man in Bruce helps quite a bit.
The script, from Robb and Mark Cullen, just screams 80s cop movie. Really, that’s what it is. It’s a buddy cop movie, right down to the rival team of straight-laced cops, the mismatched partnership of Jimmy and Paul, and even the suspension that forces our two heroes, who don’t do things by the book, off the force. There’s even a girl in distress for romantic tension, a drug cartel looking to expand their services, and a happy-ish ending. That’s probably why the whole thing really came off as kind of like a Fletch movie. From the humor to the overly complicated plot, this was basically Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan as Fletch. Even the soundtrack is 80s cop movie, due to the score work of Harold Faltermeyer, who wrote the theme to Fletch and the theme to Beverly Hills Cop!
One of the things that amazed me about Cop Out is that it wasn’t static. It just didn’t look like a Kevin Smith movie. Maybe it was because he was just directing and editing it and didn’t turn to his usual stable for production and whatnot, but for whatever reason, right down to the hand held camera work, this looked like a legitimate action flick and not a Kevin Smith flick. It might be possible that he’s a better director than we’ve given him credit for all this time, because Cop Out looks like a standard action movie (that’s a compliment).
Cop Out isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a surprisingly entertaining, fairly amusing little film that delivers some laughs and action in about equal doses. It’s not Kevin Smith’s writing, but that might have helped the movie here. It’s not a Kevin Smith labor of love, so he’s allowed to just look through the lenses and direct rather than have to oversee every step of production. He strikes me as the kind of guy to fall in love with his own work and not cut out things that, quite frankly, should be cut out. Now, given that he’s working with strangers and a more professional crew, he seems to be able to work with the material to make a better film, rather than simply make a Kevin Smith buddy cop movie.
US correspondent Ron Hogan had an 80s copgasm due to the soundtrack of Cop Out. Hopefully synthesizers are making a comeback! Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.