(by Dustin Putman
Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy in 2002's "Showtime." Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn in 2003's "National Security." Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon in 2004's "Taxi." Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy in 2005's "The Man." All of the above may be some of the more recent, most dubious buddy comedies of the last decade, but watching any one of them a second time would be preferable to suffering through the inane, tone-deaf, interminable "Cop Out" once. Since director Kevin Smith (2008's "Zack and Miri Make a Porno") has claimed via Twitter that he took an eighty percent pay cut on this, his first major studio release that he didn't write the screenplay for, one cannot rightfully say that he has sold his soul. Instead, he's just lost his mind. At least if he were seeing some big-time coinage one could reason away why he has wasted his time. Without a lofty salary—and without his typical flair for dialogue to hide behind—all he's done is put his efforts into a piece of trash that kind of proves he's not a particularly talented filmmaker after all. Article continues below
The premise is beyond dim-witted. Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) and Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan) have no sooner celebrated nine years together as partners in the NYPD that they are promptly—and justly—suspended for their insubordinate behavior. With daughter Ava (Michelle Trachtenberg) about to get married in a lavish $48,000 wedding, Jimmy decides to sell off his Andy Pafko baseball card to pay for it. Trouble is, the card is stolen by a pair of thieves before Jimmy gets the money. They might not currently be on the police force, but that's not about to stop Jimmy and Paul from doing whatever necessary to get the prized possession back—even if that means taking down a dangerous Latino gang.
"Cop Out" is unspeakably terrible, a laugh-free comedy that mistakenly thinks it's the height of hilarity while the audience, in return, sit stone-faced for the better part of two hours. The pace is akin to that of a dead slug. The narrative runs rampant all over the map without focus or cohesion. Subplots involve Paul's belief that wife Debbie (Rashida Jones) is cheating on him with the neighbor, Jimmy's hostile relationship with his ex-wife's wealthy new husband (Jason Lee), the antics of a disarming thief (Seann William Scott), and the goings-on of two other snooty cops (Adam Brody and Kevin Pollak), but they're all worthless, one-dimensional, and just plain boring.
Meanwhile, the central storyline dealing with the stolen baseball card, a missing Mercedes, and a Spanish-speaking beauty (Ana de la Reguera) stuck in the middle is no better. The jokes are lamer than a paralyzed leg, either spelled out, punctuated, or dug into the ground despite not being amusing from the get-go. A discussion at the open about the meaning of the word "homage"—with Paul mispronouncing it, har-har—leads into a disastrous scene where Paul interrogates a suspect by acting out lines of dialogue from movies ranging from "Heat" and "Training Day" to "The Color Purple" and "Schindler's List." Lest the poor viewer not understand, Jimmy announces what film each homage is from. Not long after, Paul appears in several scenes back-to-back wearing a full-body cell phone costume for no comprehensible reason. Yes, it starts out being his cover during a sting operation, but why is he still wearing it after the fact? The failed humor continues from there, falling so flat that one could almost mistake the picture for a serious, albeit really bad, cop drama if it weren't for all the juvenile, unoriginal scatological material thrown about.
That Jimmy and Paul pass by a poster celebrating the work of the NYPD during September 11, 2001 is patently offensive since these guys represent the police department as a bunch of criminal buffoons—reprehensible, unprofessional thugs who, among other things, sexually humiliate suspects; handcuff a criminal to the back of their car and drag him around, hate-crime style; pump bad guys full of lead with the delirious relish of homicidal maniacs; and even threaten innocent people by holding them at gunpoint for their own personal gain. There are no consequences for any of their heinous behavior, Jimmy and Paul continuing to be treated like protagonists one is supposed to like and root for. At the end, they are rewarded for their duties, having gone around breaking every law in the book while being very much off-duty. The real-life NYPD should be downright irate over the despicably insensitive representation they receive here.
Playing longtime partners and friends, Bruce Willis (2009's "Surrogates") and Tracy Morgan (2008's "First Sunday") don't even look like they can stand being around each other, let alone on good terms. If part of a buddy film's success is the chemistry between the two leads, then this one flunks out from the beginning. Willis, who has a constant look of constipated annoyance on his face, might as well not even have shown up. Morgan is surprisingly better since he appears to be trying, but it is all for naught when left to his own devices and nothing to work off of in the low-rent script by TV scribes Robb and Mark Cullen. The supporting players are wasted without exception, no one getting a proper character to play or anything of note to do. With that said, Ana de la Reguera (2006's "Nacho Libre") is a radiant beauty as chica Gabriela. In something that isn't a cesspool for amateurishness, she could really light the screen on fire with her presence alone.
There's no high drama in "Cop Out," only some ugly violence and a distinct disregard for human life to leave you sobered and depressed. There's no comedy, either, since the film is absent of wit and proper timing. There's also no heart, for in order to have that a film would also require a trace of humanity. Suspense is beside the point, though a third-act shootout is anticlimactic even by the lowest of standards. Visually drab, to boot—the cinematography by Kevin Smith regular David A. Klein casts New York in a forever dreary, unappetizing light—"Cop Out" has gone wrong in just about every way a movie can. When a film's only discernible redeeming quality is the use of Poison's 1980s power ballad "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" during a montage sequence, you know you've scraped the absolute bottom of the healthily-budgeted cinematic barrel. The title, however (altered after the clever "A Couple of Dicks" was deemed too controversial), doesn't quite sell the experience. Indeed, it's not only cops who will be desperately wanting out of theaters showing this embarrassing fiasco.