Cop Out is billed as an homage to buddy-cop comedies, but critics say the dull script and lack of chemistry between Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan make it less entertaining than director Kevin Smith's Tweets about getting kicked off Southwest.
Part of the problem with the film, which opens today, may be that this is the first time Smith has directed a film he didn't write. The story, by TV writers Robb and Mark Cullen, is about two NYPD detectives who are suspended without pay after they bungle an assignment. Soon after, Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) finds out that his daughter Ava (Michelle Trachtenberg) is engaged, and he plans to sell his rare baseball card to pay for the wedding, even though her step-dad (Jason Lee) has offered to foot the bill. When the card is stolen, his partner Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan) agrees to help him find it, but he's more concerned that his wife Debbie (Rashida Jones) may be cheating on him. While trying to get the card back, the partners encounter a stoner/thief (Sean William Scott), a pair of rival cops (Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody), and a baseball-obsessed gang leader (Guillermo Diaz).
Critics say Cop Out (original title: A Couple of Dicks) proves that Kevin Smith's scripts, not his directing skills, are what made him famous. There are some amusing (and dirty) improvised jokes in the scenes where Morgan and Willis are just hanging out and talking, but when Smith has to direct the "obligatory action beats or tie up the many loose ends, he seems actively bored."
Reviewers point out that the film replicates the worst elements of '80s action films, including thin plot and generic foreign villains (Mexicans this time), but it's missing "the testy, back-and-forth hostility between black and white crime-fighting partners" that made the original films popular. While Tracy Jordan is even more unhinged and over-the-top than usual, Bruce Willis plays the straight man so well that he barely acts. Rather than the witty send-up Smith was shooting for, Cop Out just makes the films it's spoofing seem even more dated.
Below, the reviews:
Cop Out announces itself as both loving "homage" to "everything on cable"-particularly '80s action comedies, referenced most directly by Harold Faltermeyer's cheap synth score and an honest-to-goodness plot song (called "Soul Brothers" and sung by Patti LaBelle)-and a sly subversion of genre. It's a movie that shamelessly trafficks in the clichés of other cop movies, while also engaging both characters and audience in the spectator sport of catching references to those very movies. Cop Out only works as well as it does-and it works exponentially better than it should-because the movie-trivia game is played smirk-free, with palpable joy from everyone involved.
There really is no good reason to recommend Cop Out. There are, however, about a dozen bad ones, starting with the fact that it's the first gross-out comedy to come along since The Hangover that is actually a comedy and not just gross, although make no mistake, gross it is — this is a Kevin Smith film after all — so don't say you weren't warned. But there is enough ridiculous fun in the Tracy Morgan- Bruce Willis pairing as two of Brooklyn's "finest" to get many of you past the squirm-inducing stuff, like the graphic poop jokes, though the sheer verbal dexterity of the screenplay on the subject is so disgustingly inspired at times that the rest of you will be wiping away tears. I'd give you an example, but nothing would make it past the censors here.
Cop Out is overly cluttered and busy, and in characteristic Smith fashion, it's longer than it needs to be. (No one needs a buddy-cop movie that runs 110 minutes.) The picture is unapologetically junky and dumb, though every once in a while it does make you think that at least a small apology would be nice. Instead, Smith and the screenwriters keep trotting out one limp gag after another, including a foul-mouthed child car thief and a parkour routine that ends in a splat. And yet there's pleasure to be had in watching Willis and Morgan natter and bicker. Willis is the good sport here, the stolid, straight bridegroom to Morgan's blushing, nutso bride. He strides through much of the movie wearing a look of amused exasperation: He doesn't seem to know exactly what to make of Morgan, but he's happy enough to bask in the comedian's zigzaggy glow.
Kevin Smith's Cop Out is a white-guy/black-guy buddy comedy with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. And only a fool would believe that this spit wad of potty jokes and F-grade storytelling is more than one of the fake movie posters in Morgan's 30 Rock dressing room. In other words: a joke. Cop Out would hang just fine next to Who Dat Ninja.
This Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan matchup definitely has its amusing moments, but ultimately all that improvised shtick gets mighty tired without any real break in the nonaction. Undemanding audiences simply looking for a few laughs, and fans of Smith's trademark laid-back "two dudes talking" approach to the throwback genre, should give Warner Bros. a decent opening weekend, but it probably will come up short on the long haul.
[Kevin Smith] he mimics everything about movies like Running Scared and the Lethal Weapon series that's now best forgotten: the slovenly plots and obligatory jackhammer action (which Smith can't stage worth a lick), the fake-outrageous atmosphere of preening, strutting misbehavior. What he misses is what made those movies fun and, in the case of 48 HRS., classic: the testy, back-and-forth hostility between black and white crime-fighting partners. As the veteran New York police duo of Cop Out, Bruce Willis, all coolheaded reserve (he's so Zen here he barely smirks - or acts), and Tracy Morgan, who never stops shouting in baby-voiced hysteria, go through their shtick like buddy-comedy robots. There's never a moment of real abrasiveness, or anything else, between them - which may be a sign that this form has outlived its relevance. In the Obama era, the notion of blacks and whites having to share an ironic, fraught-with-tension bond seems quaintly dated.
Director Kevin Smith's tweets, jokes and sharp commentary after being denied a seat aboard a Southwest Airlines flight because of his girth were a lot more engaging than Cop Out (*1/2 out of four), his new movie. Cop Out is foul-mouthed but not funny, bullet-riddled but not exciting, crammed with contrivances that go nowhere. And, perhaps worst of all, it musters up no chemistry between its buddy-cop leads... Bruce Willis shrugs his way through the movie, putting little effort into his part as NYPD Detective Jimmy Monroe, partnered for nine years with Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan). Morgan is grating and obnoxious, overacting in a cringe-inducing way. The pair are bumbling, but rarely comically so. The overall story is ill-conceived and convoluted. Scenes drag on, and characters - especially the criminals - come off as caricatures. Sometimes it seems as if Smith is trying to feebly send up the buddy-cop genre, and other times this seems intended as a serious installment in the tired film category. Either way, it doesn't work.
The very concept — an odd-couple police partnership made up of one level-headed guy (Willis) and one nut job (Morgan) — was starting to show signs of wear well before Lethal Weapon 4 (1998). Working from a script by brothers Robb and Mark Cullen (making the leap from TV to feature film writing here), Smith does little to dust off the antique. Other than his casting of Morgan — an unpredictable wild man who does most of the comedic heavy lifting and by the end of the film looks like he's lost 10 pounds through improv sweat alone — Smith has given us a lazy retread.
Cop Out piles on the references to action-comedies past: the Harold Faltermeyer score, the perpetually ticked-off captain behind the desk, Seann William Scott doing his best Joe Pesci in the back of a police car, Willis giving himself a nod by claiming never to have seen Die Hard. A few of the gags score-letting Morgan free-associate isn't always the smartest idea, but there are some diamonds in the silt-but most of them sound like Smith thumbing lazily through his dirty-joke file. Still, the hangout scenes in Cop Out are at least in Smith's wheelhouse; whenever he has to deliver the obligatory action beats or tie up the many loose ends, he seems actively bored. The shrug of a denouement doesn't say "the movie's over" so much as "get me the hell out of here."
Which is pretty funny, even if it betrays the inferiority complex that cripples this hectic, desperately ingratiating buddy-cop action-comedy. Mr. Morgan, basically doing what he does on 30 Rock, but with guns and profanity, is an amusing foil for the dependable Mr. Willis, whose jaw and scalp muscles appear to be in excellent condition for exasperated clenching. But the nonsensical title of this movie (which was originally supposed to be something smuttier) pretty much says it all. It's a phoned-in, gutless piece of hack work that reminds you of other, better films in the same vein... Cop Out does not amount to much more than a blooper reel in search of a movie.