Directed by Kevin Smith
Starring Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Michelle Trachtenberg, Jason Lee, Seann William Scott, Adam Brody, Fred Armisen
Release date: February 26, 2010
Cop out — an idiom meaning to avoid taking responsibility for an action or to avoid fulfilling a duty.
Kevin Smith has probably been guilty of “copping out” many times in his life. The question is, “Was the title of his latest film a self-fulfilling prophecy?”
I’m a huge Kevin Smith fan. I’ve seen all of his films, purchased every Evening With DVD, and salivate every time a new episode of his popular podcast (SModcast) is released. That being said I don’t think he’s without his flaws. As an actor/director he leaves much to be desired. On the flip side, as a writer/speaker he is tremendous.
Knowing this, I went into Cop Out with some reservations. This was the first film he’s directed that he hasn’t also written. It’s also the first time working without long-time collaborator/SModcast co-host/producer Scott Mosier and his presence seems to be the heart and soul of a Kevin Smith film. So it was an uphill battle from the start with this movie.
Cop Out’s complicated history, which took place even before Smith signed on, probably didn’t help Smith’s chances. Before Warner Bros picked up the film, there were script issues; once WB got it, there were several bumps with leading stars, salary negotiations, and debates over rating. When Kevin Smith came onboard, he inherited a movie budgeted at $75 million without any stars, but eventually Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan hopped onboard. Once Smith persuaded the studio to let him make what he calls his parents’ kind of R-rated movie, (some bad language, but not a lot of tasteless [oral sex] jokes) the project had a new life.
Then came the issues with the film’s original title, A Couple Of Dicks which was then changed to A Couple of Cops and then to Cop Out. So with all these changes/production hiccups, is it possible Kevin Smith could make a movie he didn’t write funny?
The answer is “Yes and No.” There are many funny moments, yes. Tracy Morgan plays the “loose cannon” in this buddy cop action comedy and is pretty much unleashed on the audience and allowed a lot of freedom to be himself (which is funny to some, myself included). Bruce Willis plays his partner of nine years who has a rocky relationship with his ex-wife and daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg). His daughter is getting married and needs money for her dream wedding. This is no problem for her new stepfather (Jason Lee), who claims the wedding is nothing more than “a weekend in Vegas,” as far as he’s concerned. Willis is strapped for cash on his police salary so he resorts to selling a vintage baseball card, appraised at $80,000. Trouble ensues as the card is stolen by Seann William Scott’s character who then trades the card for drugs. The drug dealer who buys the card ends up being involved in a much larger web of murder, drugs, and crime which Willis and Morgan get wrapped up in.
We get funny flashes from side characters played by Fred Armisen, Kevin Pollack, and Adam Brody, but overall the film doesn’t pull those funny moments together for a cohesive comedy. A lot of the dialogue is intended as funny, and my theater certainly found it funny, but I was left many times just shaking my head unsatisfied. Willis and Morgan do a good job with what they have to work with but I think the brunt of the blame for the film’s downfalls rests on the shoulders of writers Robb and Mark Cullen. The script is just a rehash of all the 80’s buddy cop movies we’ve seen a thousand times before. Its one thing to pay homage to classic/fan favorite films but it’s another thing to just recycle plot lines/clichés.
I really hope Kevin Smith finds his way again with his upcoming projects. I was checking IMDB earlier and noticed Mosier is producing, along with Smith writing, all of his upcoming films. This is a good sign, my friends, a good sign indeed. I would recommend Cop Out only if you’re a die-hard Tracy Morgan fan. I’d advise Kevin Smith fans to look elsewhere because the Silent Bob stamp is nowhere to be found on this film.
The Geek: Funny glimpses.
The Weak: Lack of cohesion, leaving the film feeling unfinished.
Vactor’s Verdict: A 2 Out Of 5