Kevin Smith hasn’t got quite the street cred, either with fanboys or with the mainstream film industry, that he had before Jersey Girl…but there are still those of us who love him. Speaking for myself, since I became aware of Smith, I’ve seen all of his movies in the theater—all of them, that is, except for Cop Out.
Smith directed (but didn’t write—a first for the man who often tells reporters that his directing style is to point the camera at stuff) the Bruce Willis/Tracy Morgan comedy, which Warner just released on home video and which frankly looked pretty awful from the ads. Having heard nothing good about the film, I gave it a miss in cinemas. Morgan has never really done much for me—his character on 30 Rock is basically no different from the character he played in his two-minute cameo in Smith’s Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. Combining Morgan’s cameo in that film with Smith’s own cameo in Willis’ Live Free or Die Hard a couple of years ago, the principal players of this picture have a strange, Kevin Bacon-less six degrees thing going on which made an already-not-promising project feel just a little too much like a self-indulgent boy’s club.
So it was significantly to my surprise that, upon playing this movie on home video, I discovered it was actually very not-bad. Early in the picture, Morgan’s trademark irritating personality was already starting to grate on me when the scene was rescued with a well-placed Die Hard joke that reminded me that Smith is still a pretty hardcore cinemaphile, and that you can’t completely keep the director’s fingerprints off someone else’s script, if your director is someone with such a big personality. Remember, after all, that the press junket for this picture was completely overshadowed by the “Too Fat To Fly” story that got more headlines and made Smith more friends than Cop Out (or, as Smith prefers, the working title “A Couple of Dicks”) ever did.
The movie isn’t amazing by any stretch; if you’re looking only for a loving send-up of ’80s action flicks you’d do better to check out Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz. Still, it’s enjoyable enough and you can see where, even as he sells out and does a mediocre flick for the money, Kevin Smith managed to elevate the script’s game. Still, it’s not completely free of the chains that come with a ranting, babbling Tracy Morgan doing his best to make moviegoers miss Martin Lawrence. Bruce Willis’ humor drifts randomly between a spot-on deadpan and a kind of listless, lifeless delivery that makes you wonder if, about a third of the way into shooting, he suddenly realized what he’d gotten himself into. After a couple of lackluster genre deliveries in this and last year’s The Surrogates, one hopes that Willis’ upcoming turn in the adaptation of Warren Ellis’ Red is good–otherwise he’ll have burned a lot of bridges in the comics community, and Boom! Studios’ Die Hard: Year One wasn’t spectacular enough to win him all that goodwill back.
Cop Out is available now on DVD and a Blu-Ray combo pack which includes a DVD and digital copy; it’s also On Demand if you’ve got Time Warner Cable, but they’ve been very aggressively advertising that this (as well as their upcoming Clash of the Titans release) is unavailable on Netflix and Redbox as yet.