Cop out: verb, To avoid or shirk, either by failing to perform, or by performing in a grossly insufficient, negligent, or superficial manner.
From now on, when anyone looks up the phrase “cop out,” a picture of director Kevin Smith (Clerks) and actors Bruce Willis (Die Hard, Sin City) and Tracy Morgan (30 Rock, Saturday Night Live) should sit next to the above ironic definition. Their new film is a mash-up of films like 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, Running Scared, Bad Boys, Pulp Fiction and even Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. The only problem is Cop Out leaves the funny out of the formula.
The opening scene introduces us to New York police detectives and longtime partners, Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) and Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan) arguing over who gets to question a suspect. Hodges wins out and interrogates the man with a hammy barrage of lines of dialogue from practically every cop film made in the last 25 years, even a “Yippee ki-yay-mother (shut your mouth!)“ from the movie that made Willis a superstar, Die Hard.
Hodges is the clown of the duo and Morgan plays the roll with unabashed enthusiasm. He tries way too hard to be funny, at times spraying spittle and drool as he delivers his lines. I couldn’t help but notice that his performance was, ironically, like a really bad impersonation of Martin Lawrence, the comedian who gave Morgan his first big break on his television show Martin.
The irony doesn’t stop there. Willis’ character, Monroe is looking to sell a rare baseball card in order to pay for his daughter’s $48,000 wedding and not be one-up’d by his ex-wife’s new rich husband. Despite the reported fact that Willis and Demi’s Moore’s man, Ashton Kutcher, get along fine, it’s hard not to read elements of that real life situation into the pseudo-tension that plays out on-screen.
Sticking with the predictable formula, the baseball card gets stolen by an annoying wise-cracking drug addict named Dave (American Pie’s Seann William Scott) and ends up in the hands of New York’s number one drug dealer, Poh Boy (Weed’s Guillermo Diaz) who also, too conveniently, is a huge baseball memorabilia collector.
As the duo attempt to retrieve the card, the movie moves from one borrowed plot device to another. Thankfully, a decent soundtrack provides an enjoyable background with songs from the Beastie Boys and Run DMC throughout the movies 107 minute runtime.
Of course you have to add a rival pair of borderline inept detectives for the stars to trade insults (think Beverly Hills Cop or Bad Boys) to complete the “buddy cop film formula.” In this case Kevin Pollak (Hostage) and Adam Brody (The OC, American Pie 2) fill the roles as Hunsaker and Mangold. Throw in Hollywood newcomer Ana de la Reguera as Gabriella, the genre’s obligatory “maiden-in-distress” and PRESTO! You have one unoriginal, mildly funny, wait-for-the-DVD, buddy cop movie.
Maybe if Smith had attempted to make this film a spoof or a deliberate tongue-in-cheek tribute to the genre it may have been funnier or at least more entertaining. But Cop Out as it’s presented, is a Frankenstein monster of several good and even mediocre cop films that leaves it with no identity of its own. To paraphrase Jim Kelly in the Enter The Dragon, “Man, you come straight out of a buddy cop movie.”