Director: Kevin Smith
Warner Bros Pictures, February 2010
By Caesar Martini
Do you like Tracey Morgan? Specifically, have you ever watched Tracy Morgan’s character on 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan, and thought, “This guy is hilarious, but I wish I could see him play the same character with a slightly better grasp on reality for 107 straight minutes while Bruce Willis stands nearby and struggles to tolerate him,” then brother, have I got a movie for you!
The movie is Cop Out, the first film that Kevin Smith has directed without also writing. It is so named as a poke at the movie studio for not accepting Smith’s original idea for the picture, “A Couple of Dicks.” The film follows partners Jimmy (Willis) and Paul (Morgan) as police officers who are tracking down Jimmy’s stolen baseball card, so he can sell it and pay for his daughter’s upcoming wedding.
It appeared to me like Smith was trying to make something of an homage to buddy cop movies of the 80’s. Films like Running Scared, Tango & Cash, or The Last Boy Scout, or dear God, did you know that Pat Morita did a buddy cop film with Jay Leno?! Who in the name of sweet merciful fuckery would ever allow that to happen?
Anyway, the homage doesn’t quite work as well as one would hope. Instead of the semi-realistic mixture of comedy and action, blended in the giant mixing bowl of antagonistic camaraderie like one would find in Lethal Weapon, it’s more of a Frankenstein’s monster. Like someone took the corpse of a buddy comedy then stitched a big “FUNNY” sign on the torso and a big “SHOOTING” sign on the legs, then sent it staggering into movie theaters everywhere.
It’s not a smooth mixture, is what I’m saying. The first half is mostly comedic elements, then towards the end it starts to get serious, but that part just doesn’t work, for reasons too unwieldy for explanation. It’s like they try to be silly and serious at the same time while a big shoot out is happening and none of it makes any sense, but neither is it particularly amusing.
To be fair though, I laughed a lot in this movie. The dialogue is really funny, even if the events are completely ridiculous. It becomes less amusing the longer Tracy Morgan is on screen however, which is all the goddamn time. I learned watching Cop Out that Morgan is a dish best served in small doses, as after the first 45 minutes of watching the film, no amount of disbelief-suspension was going to convince me that Bruce Willis’ character wouldn’t have shot his partner in the jaw years ago if he had to put up with that blathering moron. Morgan reminds me of a black 1980’s Robin Williams, back when cocaine was his biggest – and only – meal of the day. Non-stop jibba-jabba, all the time.
There are a handful of supporting characters, but they don’t get a lot of screen time. Two fellow police officers (Adam Brody and Kevin Pollack) provide a few laughs, but the writers didn’t seem to know what to do with them; they jump in and out of the story with very little purpose. Special mention goes to Sean William Scott, who plays a petty thief that gets caught up in events. His character is hilarious, ridiculous but in the best possible way, and he stole every scene he was in. I would have liked to see him become more of a sidekick to the main characters.
For the most part, I did enjoy Cop Out. It had a lot of laugh out loud moments and it’s an interesting comedic take on old buddy cop movies of yore. It didn’t quite work the way I think it was intended, but I appreciate the attempt and I didn’t feel like I wasted my time watching it. I recommend it as a rental or a casual viewing.