Cop Out, originally titled A Couple of Dicks is nevertheless a departure for writer/director Kevin Smith from his crude-humor-with-a-heart pictures of the past. Sure, it’s rated R and stars SNL vet and 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan, a specialist in dirty humor. This, though, is an homage or “hom-age” as Morgan pronounces it in the film’s opening scene. With the help of action veteran Bruce Willis and a solid supporting cast, Smith has crafted a spoof comedy of the lowest caliber—but for once, that’s a good thing.
Willis and Morgan play Jimmy Monroe and Paul Hodges, detectives and partners for nine years in the NYPD. immy needs to scrounge up $50,000 for his daughter’s wedding or face the humiliation of letting his ex-wife’s new, rich hubby pay for the shindig (Jason Lee, one of Smith’s go-to actors and an ideal choice here, plays the role to the nth degree of smugness). He therefore decides to sell his most prized possession: a gem mint 10-baseball card from the first Topps deck ever sold. Unfortunately for him, his partner is having trust issues with his wife and couldn’t be bothered to get off the phone during a robbery in which Jimmy was stuck in the middle.
With the card gone both detectives get to work trying to find the bandit (played by the always affable Seann William Scott) and recover the collectible before the wedding, but their would-be brief investigation is prolonged by a Mexican drug czar who bought the card and wants Jimmy and Paul to help him out before returning it. Their efforts are further hampered by recent suspensions from the force for reckless behavior and two competitive detectives who suspect Paul is a dirty cop. Luckily for the audience, these caricatures of on-screen crime scene investigators are embodied by the talented Kevin Pollack (friend and consistent costar with Willis) and the delightful Adam Brody, both of whom know exactly who they’re skewering and how to do it with not only great zeal, but genuine admiration.
Though Bruce Willis is probably the only household name in the group, one of the greatest attributes of Cop Out is its cast. Those that can engage with Tracy Morgan’s manic, screwball behavior are in for a treat. He’s given plenty of opportunities to do what he does so well and playing off of the confused, angry face of Willis only adds to the fun. There are even a few funny bits when both actors get to take part in the camp. Add the aforementioned supporting players and you’ve got yourself quite the congregation of thespians.
Obviously, Smith knew going in he would need some help making Cop Out enjoyable. After all, if you take away the genial actors, you’re left with a pretty atrocious picture. It’s not the ‘80s, anymore. veryone has seen a buddy cop movie, and Smith doesn’t want to alter his to stand out from the pack. He wants it to be a member of the group, but with one little tweak: his movie is trying to be bad.
It’s not trying to be bad in the “it’s so bad it’s good” kind of way, either. It’s not taking the best elements of the genre and making them look cool today. It uses the good and the bad with a heavy preference for the latter. The transitions are weak. The characters are closer to caricatures. Scenes are cut together playfully with lots of breathing room for the actors. The plot is as thin as the concept is old.
What makes it work (for the most part) is not just the amiable actors, but the directness with which Smith presents the material. The opening shot of the film is a flyover of New York and New Jersey, the go-to opening credits shot for more than three decades. The first person you see in the film is Bruce Willis, a man who made his money (and still does) by pretending to be a cop over and over and over again. The first scene has Morgan in front of a police force spouting famous movie quotes like “King Kong ain’t got nothing on me!” and “Yippie-Ki-Yay-M***** F*****” (he even throws in some Star Wars and The Color Purple for good measure). Willis, or should I say Jimmy, responds to his legendary Die Hard quote with a sly, “I never saw that one.”
The scene works because it’s funny, clever self-parody, but also because it’s extremely obvious humor. It’s just like the ridiculousness of Tracy Morgan being a certified police officer or the score composed by ‘80s action veteran Harold Faltermayer (Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun, and The Running Man). Everyone is in on the joke thus allowing us to enjoy the absurdity with them. In fact, Cop Out serves as an experimental film for Smith, a man continuously looking to push the boundaries of Hollywood convention while still loving every bit of its history. It may not be perfect, but like the rest of his films, it’s undeniably bold and a heck of a good time.
Smith’s love for the film or at least the movie-making process is certainly evident in the Blu-ray disc’s special features. According to Smith, Cop Out features the debut of Warner Home Video’s Maximum Comedy Mode (most likely quite similar to their Maximum Movie Mode), a kind of video-enhanced commentary track with picture-in-picture content from Smith and Seann William Scott. The feature allows viewers to watch the film with supplemental elements included. For instance, the movie begins and within seconds Smith interrupts to show the two other alternate openings. He appears again and again as the movie goes on with deleted scenes, outtakes, or pop-up facts. He even comes on sometimes to tell himself to stop blabbering and let people enjoy the film.
The content included in MCM is incredible. It adds more than an hour to the film’s total run time and includes video footage of all the stars, some of the producers, and even an on-set personal assistant who shows up to describe exactly what his job entails. It truly feels like anything could happen next. Now, all of this content does disrupt the flow of the film, especially a comedy. It also only allows you to skip over additional material some of the time.
The rest is forced on you leaving you the option to watch it or fast-forward until you get back to the movie. It’s also impossible to access some of the behind-the-scenes footage unless you scan through the entire MCM searching for it. It would have been nice if all the features were still accessible on the menu screen. Still, with a little polishing, this type of feature could easily come to replace the typical director’s commentary track.