He lamented this fact himself in response to the respectable, but still not top-spot opening weekend for Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back which "retired" his two major recurring characters. After the against-the-known Jersey Girl wasn't the mainstream upset he had hoped for, he easily un-retired his iconic characters (and a ton more from the "View Askewniverse") for Clerks II. Again, Smith met with better critical acclaim than Box Office receipts. The next film he wrote and directed, Zack and Miri make a Porno had similar results... so what's a guy going to do to get a hit, man?
Well, maybe the Kev-Smith-Unit can direct somebody else's script in a proverbial sure-fire hit, like... hey, like a comedic cop film starring Bruce Willis! Hey, yeah! The brother team of Mark and Robb Cullen wrote a funny script called "A Couple of Dicks" that, through the Lens and Filter of Kevin Smith, should be both hilarious and money making.
Well, A Couple of Dicks became A Couple of Cops, which was a cop-out, so the film was retitled Cop Out! And this isn't the first or the last of the film's issues. The result is funny, it's true, but far from a great film. Critics panned it and, though it went on to make its money back, Cop Out is also far from a hit... and, again, it opened at the box office... as Number Two!
This is too bad, really, especially considering what this film could have been and the very funny parts it has. There are times that the film is worth laughing out loud at and times that the story becomes pretty interesting. However, just as often we can see a quality film just beyond the veil of the silver screen that never quite reaches what it could and should have been. In short, Cop Out isn't quite the sum of its parts.
Willis is detective Jimmy Monroe, your typical 1980s buddy movie cop, paired with his cop buddy Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan), who is armed with movie quotes and fantasy cop ambitions much more than his actual wits or his guns, especially seeing as how (in true '80s cop movie fashion) the duo are all-too-frequently relieved of their badges and side arms due to their renegade, if humorous, escapades.
The lack of pay leaves Jimmy in a bind, considering his daughter Ava (Michelle Trachtenberg) is about to be wed in a very expensive ceremony! The only way Jimmy can pay for the damned thing, thus thwarting her wealthier step-father Roy (Jason Lee) from taking all the credit, is to sell his prized baseball card.
Again, in true '80s cop buddy movie fashion, this leads the loose-cannon partners to a much, much bigger scam that starts with small-time, wise-crackin' hood Dave (Sean William Scott), through connected gangsters like Juan (Cory Fernandez), innocent victims like Gabriela (Ana de la Reguera) and all the way up to Demi-Godfather Poh Boy (Guillermo Diaz)!
And since that's not big enough, we know it's somehow going to connect to something incredibly huge, even for an '80s style heist.
That theme goes through Cop Out quite a lot. It does its best to be bigger than what it is, often coming off as a little punk shouting about its toughness with as much profanity as... Smith's previous film. Most often there isn't enough to back up the shouting. Cop Out is funny, but it seems to think its funnier than it is. Cop Out has gunfights, but a ridiculous amount of bullet holes (and gun comedy) fills up more spaces than the humor has room for. Cop Out is 107 minutes long, but has enough mismatched plot shoved in to be twice that length! This would be good if all the elements matched, but all-too-often these feel like puzzle pieces from different boxes hammered in to force everything to fit.
Similarly, to avoid having any characters appear as paper-thin as they are, the Cullens develop Paul beyond his relentlessly quoting human lexicon of pop culture (he essentially declares every movie that inspired this one within the first five minutes), we're given a recurring subplot relating to the idea that his hot wife Debbie (Rashida Jones) might be cheating on him. Meanwhile the two goofy cops have to face off with a similarly goofy detective partnership in the form of Hunsaker (Kevin Pollak) and Mangold (Adam Brody), who are part foil, part ally and part nemesis, depending on what the script calls for when!
The whole thing feels familiar enough to be a spoof, but aside from its genre self-referencing, it never really gets to that point. At most, Cop Out is a send-up of its decades-older peers. Smith still wants to make his comedy outlandish and dialogue-driven, but he hesitates just at the line of farce, keeping things serious enough to (hopefully) allow the audience to feel the drama that never quite feels dramatic. Instead we get scenes of Scott engaging in infantile pranks, knock-knock jokes and annoyingly repeating everything other characters say. It can be funny, but it outweighs its welcome pretty damned quick. Morgan is often in competition with Scott to be goofier... that is when he's not throwing a temper tantrum. On either side of the spectrum he always seems to play the part of Paul (whom, we are to believe, is a good enough cop to have earned his detective shield) as a human cartoon character from opening credits to closing crawl. It can be funny, but it's the same trick over and over again.
This is too bad, because Cop Out can be great fun and when the audience allows themselves to click off the right synapses and let themselves be entertained the movie ends up being a very nifty ride with at least one or two quotable lines. Bruce Willis still does the things he does best, but that's far from a bad thing, really. Bruce Willis makes this movie worth watching, engages in the right kind of comedy with his on-screen partners and the camera while keeping the scattershot revolving plot anchored around him. This is helpful, especially when a few of the pop culture references that Cop Out relishes in are to films Bruce Willis also starred in.
Yes, folks, it's okay to like this movie and it's sure to have its lasting fans. There is a lot to like here. The biggest issue is that the good parts never truly extend to becoming a truly good movie. Instead we get an almost popcorn hit that collapses under its own weight after Smith and company overload it with too much of what they want Cop Out to be but not nearly enough of what it really should be! It's never quite a Kevin Smith film, and it's not quite an anti-Kevin Smith Film. At most it feels like an action comedy that tries hard to ape Kevin Smith, whether Kevin Smith likes it or not!
To tell you the truth... I do like Cop Out, and I had fun with it! On the other hand, I couldn't help but think of what this movie could have, would have and should have been. As it stands, it's not the cool, consistent, hit film it deserved to be and I'm not even quite sure it's worth Three Stars out of Five, but that's what I'm giving it. So until you're interrogated with quotes from everything from Star Wars to Gone with the Wind to Jaws to Schindler's List to Jaws to Jerry Maguire to The Color Purple to Batman to Dirty Dancing, I'll cop to seeing your punk-asses out in the next reel!
I'm sorry, did that ending sound like a... Cop Out? No? Oh, the whole review did? Noted! Thanks!
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