Review in a Hurry: Too-fat-to-fly director Kevin Smith steps outside his normal comfort zone with a tribute to the cop-buddy comedies of the '80s, starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. While Smith's self-acknowledged weakness with action sequences is still evident, his gift for profanity-laden comedy more than makes up for it.
The Bigger Picture: Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Cop Out is a tribute to cop-buddy comedy sequels of the '80s, since, when the movie opens, our bickering partners have been together nine years, and there's no obligatory recap of how they first met, hated each other initially, and later turned out to be the perfect mismatch. This does lead one to wonder how a screeching, paranoid dork like Paul Hodges (Morgan) ever became a detective, let alone one paired with the more standard action-hero-y Jimmy Monroe (Willis), but skipping the origin story at least allows us to cut directly to the chase (literally).
While Willis and Morgan's characters are a homage to such duos as Lethal Weapon's Murtaugh and Riggs, they are paralleled by a duo—played by Adam Brody and Kevin Pollak—who exist as all-out spoof, depicted as painfully modern metrosexuals who only wish they could be true movie heroes.
Meanwhile, the McGuffin of the movie—a stolen baseball card with which Willis' Monroe hopes to pay for his daughter's wedding—allows Smith to briefly indulge his love of collectibles.
Smith gets nearly everything right, from a soundtrack that features mostly '80s rock and rap hits plus a retro-cool synth score by Beverly Hills Cop's Harold Faltermeyer, to the delicate balance of laugh-out-loud dialogue (playing an inept burglar, Seann William Scott actually manages to bring down the house with a knock-knock joke) with real danger (people die, often violently).
But those action-comedies of yesteryear also had great action set-pieces, and this really doesn't:
Smith, as usual, does his own editing, which may be a mistake in a genre that's so different than he's used to, and so dependent on timing. He also frequently composes shots with the actors dead center of screen, a major film-school no-no because it generally registers as less dynamic to the viewer.
With that said, you're not going to go see this movie for any particularly artistic reason. The humor is the draw, it works very well, and since almost none of the dialogue is reprintable here, you'll need to discover it for yourself. And it must be said that Willis knows how to pull off an in-joke far better than his former Pulp Fiction costar John Travolta did in From Paris With Love.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Aside from an amusing Jason Lee cameo, fans hoping for more of the Clerks/View Askew version of Kevin Smith may not find what they were hoping for.
Check out films that just hit theaters in our Totally New Releases gallery!