Alas, the long slow decline of Kevin Smith. 2010’s Cop Out was Kevin Smith’s first time directing a film that he didn’t write himself, and put him in a position to work with Bruce Willis in an action-comedy. On the commentary he references both Fletch and Beverly Hills Cop. Unfortunately he never gets close in delivering the goods as either an action movie or comedy. Willis stars alongside Tracy Morgan as two cops who get suspended after a routine bust goes bad. With no pay coming in Willis has to sell a rare baseball card that then gets stolen by Seann Williams Scott. This leads them to an evil bad guy named Po Boy (Guillermo Diaz). My review of Cop Out after the jump.
To review a comedy is simple: Did you laugh? Of course mileage always varies with such things, but for the most part there wasn’t much to laugh at here. Tracy Morgan can be a funny guy, but here one of the main jokes is that he doesn’t understand or speak Spanish or Portuguese. And so he says funny half Spanish words. He and Bruce Willis and supposed to have been partners for nine years, but the two rarely relax into any reasonable chemistry together. To review an action movie is also simple: Are there any good action sequences, edge of your seat what have you? No. The film at best is competent, but there’s never a good set piece.
I guess there are a couple moments that are amusing. It’s kind of funny – but not in a laugh out loud way – that Scott rubs Morgan’s nipples when he has a gun on him, but the sub-plots don’t go anywhere great. Morgan thinks his wife (Rashida Jones) is cheating on him, so he installs a nanny-cam to watch the bedroom. And Bruce Willis has to pay for his daughter’s wedding, which leads to Jason Lee acting like a real dick to him as the man who married his ex-wife. Fred Armisen shows up in the middle of the film and doesn’t do anything funny. How is that possible? Adam Brody and Kevin Pollack are competing detectives who end up at the big end shoot-out, and though both can be good, they get little to do here (Brody has a running joke about wanting to wear cowboy boots that’s just not very funny). Kevin Smith has his own rhythms, and they work okay at times when he’s got the right actors that know how to read his dialog, but Willis gives very little other than playing Bruce Willis. Morgan does his thing, but it’s not a full meal, and it’s very familiar and only occasionally amusing. Smith may have given the script a pass, but it never feels his.
This film was beat up when it was released, and I feel bad joining the dog pile, but it’s very similar to Liz Phair’s trajectory. Phair was celebrated for her early work – though it was obviously not completely technically proficient – and then pursued more mainstream work only to reveal her limitations. This has been Kevin Smith for almost the last ten years, and he’s tried commercial titles, and then done smaller indie films to get back to his roots, or whatever. Smith says something telling during the commentary/Maximum Comedy Mode where he talks about how independent cinema doesn’t exist now. Though obviously films like Winter’s Bone prove him wrong, I think the truth is that it’s nearly impossible to get a film made like those Miramax films from the 90’s, and still be a part of the national conversation. Perhaps it’s hard to make movies for $10 Million that make $30 Million at the box office and sell well on DVD/Blu, but that’s what Smith should be doing. It may suck to have a ceiling, but if Smith was attempting to stretch his muscles, this film feels like someone buying a membership to a gym and going once… maybe twice.
The Blu-ray is interesting in that Smith makes that revealing comment about the death of his indie cinema, but also retells the story of how Bruce Willis criticized him for not knowing his lenses. It’s a particularly humiliating story, and Smith tries to own it. It suggests the troubles that were had on the set (Bruce Willis supposedly didn’t take direction well from Smith, or at all).
The film comes on Blu-ray in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1. The transfer is immaculate, and this release also comes with a DVD/digital copy. Extras include the Maximum Comedy Mode, which features Smith and Seann Williams Scott offering commentary, deleted footage, alternate takes, and branching video to “Focus Points” (21 min.) and “Wisdom from the Shit Bandit” (4 min.) which has Scott offering nonsense platitudes. Smith is an amiable host and the track runs almost three hours, but as he shows up on screen to do this, there’s a slight desperation in some of the jokes, and he never relaxes into it, so he gives off that sense of a tired but trying performer.