You can trace the origins of the “buddy cop film” genre back to the 1960s with films like In the Heat of the Night. Though, when you talk to someone about buddy cop films the conversation will most likely start with films of the ‘80s – the decade where the genre exploded thanks to movies like 48 Hrs. and the Lethal Weapon series.
Next to heist and slight-of-hand movies, this subgenre of the buddy film has always been one of my favorites. From the pairings of Riggs and Murtaugh to Tango and Cash, it is the clash of different personalities that make the movies so worthwhile. This fact was not lost on Kevin Smith who signed on to direct Cop Out for Warner Bros. But in a director-for-hire role where previously he had always directed material that he had written himself, Smith is out of his element.
He’ll be the first one to tell you that he isn’t a good director; and with the exception of Clerks and Chasing Amy, the rest of his comedies sort of get lumped together as far as quality goes. His decision to do Cop Out was because he and Bruce Willis have a history (Smith had a small role in Live Free or Die Hard), and because he liked the script written by brothers Robb and Mark Cullen. But even Smith had to know going in that making a buddy cop movie that was fresh – or at the very least recaptured the magic of those from the past – was going to be difficult. And with the exception of a few scenes, specifically the integration scene that happens within the first few minutes, the comedy is a half-assed attempt at trying to be a good buddy cop movie. Maybe that’s part of the joke – it is titled Cop Out after all.
In the comedy, detectives Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) and Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan) aren’t partners who are thrust together because of circumstances. They’ve been working the streets of Brooklyn for nine years. When a drug bust goes bad and an informant ends up dead, they are suspended for a month without pay. Taking over the investigation are a pair of second-banana cops (Kevin Pollack and Adam Brody). Undaunted, Monroe and Hodges continue working the case on their own. The pair do have a devil may care attitude when it comes to crime solving, but it has a feeling of been there, done that.
Bruce Willis again plays the straight-man role with a sense of humor, just as he did in The Last Boy Scout, but the comic lunacy of Tracy Morgan outmatches his own joke-to-laugh ratio. Morgan is like the black version of Kevin Smith in a way, as he is a product of the pop culture world that he lives in. During the interrogation scene, which plays heavily in the ads, Morgan quotes everything from Beetlejuice to Scarface. He even throws in one quote that his partner doesn’t even recognize, but everyone in the audience will know.
But remember, this scene happens way, way early in the movie. The rest of the motion picture is a jumbled narrative involving a drug-dealing villain named after a sandwich, Poh Boy (Guillermo Diaz), and Willis attempting to reclaim a stolen baseball card. Added to mix is Seann William Scott as a thief who performs parkour to break into homes. He is regulated to third-wheel status, just as Joe Pesci was in Lethal Weapon 2 and the sequels that followed.
It’s probably best to classify Cop Out as a homage than as a fresh take on the buddy cop genre. The potential was there, but the mid-section is a drag and the climax isn’t much better. Heck, Warner Bros. already has a better collection of buddy flicks in its own library, including: the first two Lethal Weapons, Boy Scout, Tango & Cash and of course Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – a film that deserves to find the audience it sorely lacked when it was released in theaters in 2005. Though I must admit that Smith did one thing right. He got Harold Faltermeyer, who hasn’t done a score for a Hollywood film since 1991’s Kuffs, to do the film score. Some may not know the name, but you definitely know his music. From Beverly Hills Cop and Fletch to Top Gun and The Running Man his synthesizer scores are a breath of fresh air compared to typical orchestrations we normally get from Hans Zimmer and others. Well, Kevin Smith always wanted to do a Fletch movie. I guess working with Faltermeyer was the next best thing.
Director: Kevin Smith Notable Cast: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Seann William Scott, Rashida Jones, Kevin Pollack, Adam Brody Writer(s): Mark Cullen and Robb Cullen
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!