Published Feb 26, 2010So, what does Kevin Smith bring to the table as a director for hire? Whatever the studio wants, apparently. The notoriously loquacious, foul-mouthed filmmaker is more respected for his abilities behind a pen than a lens, so the studio's motivation to hire him to handle Cop Out is a bit of a head scratcher.
With little preamble, the title screen pops up and we meet our "couple of dicks" (the superior original title) about to interrogate a suspect while discussing the longevity of their nine-year partnership. One of the film's running gags is built on Paul's (Tracy Morgan) inability to play the bad cop unless he's reciting lines from popular movies, ranging from Schindler's List to Robocop and Die Hard (Bruce Willis's Jimmy Monroe hasn't seen that one, of course).
F-bombs by the bucket load and a visual dick joke later and it's at least apparent why the studio would consider Smith a good match for this material. Think Semi-Lethal Weapon and you're in the right ballpark. Speaking of ballparks, the plot excuse behind Cop Out is baseball card theft.
Suspended from duty after street shoot-out shenanigans, Jimmy is forced to sell a rare baseball card in order to pay for his daughter's wedding. An overly friendly parkour expert thief jacks the card and sells it for drugs, connecting Jimmy and Paul back to the case that got them suspended in the first place. Underdeveloped characters and subplots abound for such a tightly edited film and a lot of talented performers are left up comedy creek without a paddle.
Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody are possibly gay rival cops; Michelle Trachtenberg is Jimmy's daughter and Jason Lee her stepfather; Rashida Jones is Paul's perhaps cheating wife; all of them are used as little more than set furnishing. The aforementioned parkour thief is handled almost as thoughtlessly, but Sean William Scott's oddly well-formed performance saves the character from being mere caricature, unlike Weeds' Guillermo Diaz, as the sports-obsessed drug dealer.
There are quite a few laughs, mostly courtesy of Tracy Morgan, playing insecure and weird rather than insane here, but it's his delivery of scatological tirades much more than the contents therein that's responsible for the funny. Cop Out's laugh count is on par with Smith's previous cinematic low water mark, Jersey Girl, but it just doesn't have the heart or creativity of filth that made Kevin Smith a name in the first place.
One thing a Smith film has never been is forgettable, and that's exactly what Cop Out is. At least he's finally learned how to shoot a completely normal-looking picture. Let's hope that's the leverage Smith needs to prevent the studios from copping out on producing one of his scripts next. (Warner)