Inspired by '80s classics like Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours, Cop Out declares its intentions to be a faithful homage right off the bat. Though set present day (and throwing out geektastic references to everything from Wikipedia and parkour to the "All Your Base" meme), the film still feels like a relic of the Reagan administration. Long-time partners Jimmy (Bruce Willis) and Paul (Tracy Morgan) are a mismatched couple of dicks think Murtaugh and Riggs without the bitterness or suicidal tendencies who stumble into a big case involving some Mexican drug dealers. On the family side, Jimmy's daughter is about to get married and his ex's ass hole second husband (wonderfully played by Jason Lee) is giving him a hard time about paying the $60K tab, while Paul suspects his hot wife (Rashida Jones) is cheating with a neighbor despite her protestations to the contrary.
If you remember the movies that inspired Cop Out, you know that a coherent plot isn't often a requirement of the genre. Cop Out's plot is convoluted and absurd (I'm not even going to try to explain it), but the movie works anyway because of good actors, smart dialog and a sense of fun that's sadly lacking from so many modern movies. Yes, Morgan and Willis make a fine pair and ably hold down the center of the film, but it's the supporting cast who really shine, with actors given a few minutes each and everyone making the most of their screen time. This includes not only Lee and Jones, but also Sean William Scott as an annoying-yet-charming robber who coaxes amazing personal revelations out of fellow prisoners, Kevin Pollack and Adam Brody expertly channeling Taggart and Rosewood, Susie Essman subverting then reveling in her foul-mouthed Curb Your Enthusiasm personae and Ana de la Reguera as a kidnapping victim who tells her captors exactly how she feels about them.
As a director of action, no one will ever confuse Kevin Smith with Richard Donner or Martin Breast, but give the guy credit: He keeps things moving briskly and wisely downplays the violence, rendering the shootouts cartoony and based on dialogue instead of slow-mo bursts of bloodshed. (Smith also edited this film, and it's his best work in that area yet.) Last year, I wrote an over-effusive review of Zack and Miri in which I said Smith had really grown as a film maker and all the chatter about how he can't really direct needed to end. That's doubly true here, to the point that if I just showed you the visuals from Cop Out, I doubt you'd guess Kevin Smith was the guy behind the lens.
Look, the decision on whether or not to see Cop Out is a simple one: Just ask yourself, when I mentioned Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop, did you think to yourself awesome!, or was it more those movies blow? For those in the awesome camp, get ready for a treat.
I don't know about you, but I hated the previews for Cop Out, the latest flick from dick-and-fart-joke king Kevin Smith. To my eyes, the trailers were a mishmash of Tracy Morgan incoherently spouting movie quotes while Bruce Willis laughed, intercut with standard-issue action scenes. Smith is an indie legend who raised $27,000 to shoot his 1994 debut Clerks, in the process spawning a cottage industry around two of that film's side characters: Jay and Silent Bob. Sixteen years and 8 features later, now he's directing Bruce Willis action movies? The good news is I had no need to worry; Cop Out turns out to be a spirited resurrection of what I thought was a long-deceased genre: the buddy cop movie.