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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Cop Out (review)

Sellout

Shame on Silent Bob. I realize that times is tough and everyone’s gotta make a living, and that that’s probably why Kevin Smith agreed to direct a big-budget studio buddy action comedy. But shame on him anyway. Shame on him for betraying everything that he has been as a filmmaker: brash and aggressive, angry but hopeful, and never, ever less than full of heart. I don’t love all his movies, but I love and respect that he has his own unique vision, his own particular take on the world. You always know when you’re watching a Kevin Smith movie — there’s no mistaking his movies for anyone else’s. At least until now. Cop Out? Sellout. Cheap betrayal of a sellout of his fans and of himself.
It’s not like Smith can’t be crude: his last movie was called Zack and Miri Make a Porno, for Christ’s sake. But he was always smart about it, and never crude for crudity’s sake alone. In fact, his crudity always served to make some sort of pointed social commentary. This endurance event of a crapfest of fake manufactured movie product, however, plays as if it were written by a couple of kindergartners… and who knows, perhaps screenwriter brothers Robb and Mark Cullen are indeed still getting over potty training. That could be the reason for the tittering barrage of jokes about cock and sucking cock, endless dissertations on the art of making poop, and one excruciatingly unbearable scene in which Brooklyn cop Tracy Morgan (G-Force, The Longest Yard) and perp Seann William Scott (Planet 51, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs) engage in a “conversation” that’s more like an escalating toddler battle for backseat-of-the-car supremacy than anything a movie purportedly by adult filmmakers, featuring adult characters, and for adult audiences should ever get near. You’ve seen part of it in the trailers: Tracy Morgan chanting “No no no no no no no no” like a baby throwing a tantrum. Who the fuck over the age of five thinks this is funny?

The requisite kick to the crotch — of which we are treated to more than once here — is practically witty next to that.

Maybe this is supposed to be a parody of buddy action cop comedies. If it is, someone should tell the Cullens and Smith that merely repeating the worst idiocies of the genre does not a parody make. (Or maybe someone should inform the filmmakers that the genre has basically been a parody since the beginning?) Paul Hodges (Morgan) and his partner, Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis: Planet Terror, Nancy Drew), have been suspended, Lethal Weapon style — complete with the handing over of the guns and badges — but that doesn’t stop them from hunting down Mexican druglords and a stolen rare baseball card, committing all manner of felonies themselves in the process, and generally engaging in random acts of petulant, thwarted masculinity: Morgan’s manhood is threatened by his wife, Debbie (Rashida Jones: I Love You, Man, Little Black Book), whom he suspects is cheating on him… and so she should be, since he is a subliterate, actually drooling cretin; Willis’s manhood is threatened by the fact that he may not be able to pay for his daughter’s (Michelle Trachtenberg: 17 Again) wedding unless he recovers that valuable baseball collectible. (The upkeep on women! It’ll drive a man crazy!)

And if the details weren’t bad enough, the film is insulting on larger levels, too. Cop Out skips over important plot points — or at least as “important” as anything can be when obviously no one involved gave a shit — if Morgan cannot be present to dribble saliva all over it or Willis to look mortally embarrassed by it all. Adding some fake-ass Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack music doesn’t do anything but make us hanker for the time when these kinds of movies were actually good.


MPAA: rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, violence and brief sexuality

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • fett101

    I think he mentioned on his podast that Willis wanted to do something with him after Die Hard and this script happened to show up.

    I’d love to see this to support his work but I can’t bring myself to do it.

  • Fake-ass BHC music? It may not come close to touching the quality of “Axel F” but it IS by the same guy.

  • Dokeo

    “Ow, my balls!”

    Next up: Ass, The Movie.

  • JoshDM

    I had held out hope that this might be a funny buddy cop movie. Heck, it’s Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis (Sean William Scott aside). *Sadface*

  • Brian

    I think “random acts of petulant, thwarted masculinity” should be the official tagline for the talkback forums on Ain’t it Cool News.

  • Jester

    It’s funny and a little sad how many reviews of this one read about like this:

    “This is a bad movie. Two stars. Maybe two and a half stars if you like Bruce Willis. Oh, Kevin Smith directed this movie? Oh, in THAT case, one and a half stars. Guy should know freakin’ better.”

    Roger Ebert didn’t even trouble himself to learn that Kevin Smith didn’t write this one. He just assumed KS DID write it and went on with his life.

    KS STILL can’t catch a break.

  • misterb

    MaryAnn,
    Sincere question – do you like Tracy Morgan in anything? He is definitely an acquired (or devolved) taste and he’s pretty much always Tracy Morgan. I’m not sure I would blame Kevin Smith for not giving much direction to Tracy.

  • Lisa

    I like Tracey in 30 Rock but apart from that I don’t know much about him.

    MaryAnn would you say Smith has improved as a director – does he move the camera now?

  • MaryAnn

    MaryAnn, Sincere question – do you like Tracy Morgan in anything?

    Nope. I saw him on *The Daily Show* the other night and was appalled to see that he is, apparently, just as big a cretin as himself as he is onscreen.

    I don’t blame Kevin Smith for Tracy Morgan. But I do blame Kevin Smith for choosing to make a movie starring Tracy Morgan.

    MaryAnn would you say Smith has improved as a director – does he move the camera now?

    I have no interest in dissecting the technical work that a director does separately from the story he’s telling. I don’t care how or if he moves the camera if what the camera is focusing on is not worth focusing on.

  • MaryAnn

    KS STILL can’t catch a break.

    In the case of this movie, Smith doesn’t deserve a break. He made this movie. If he’s not willing to own it, I have no sympathy for him. This is *his work.* Anyone who loves and respects Smith’s work will surely be disappointed in this.

    On the other hand, anyone who think kicks to the crotch and grown men behaving like tantrum-throwing toddlers is hilarious deserves this shit.

  • drewryce

    Just curious, has any major player in Hollywood ever just gotten up and admitted “Okay, I whored it out for this one. I knew it was crap but the offers haven’t been coming in like they used to and I needed the cash to support my divorce/drug habit/tax indictment”.

  • LaSargenta

    Not that I know of, but I know Willie Nelson has. But, his talent is so great that he still manages to shine even if he sings with Toby Keith (the most mean-spirited man in country music).

  • Christine

    MaryAnn – I love you for calling a sellout when you see one. Seems most people are justifying selling out these days, and scornful of those who still actually care about such “outdated idea(ls)”. So…thank you.

    Not even really a fan of Kevin Smith, but I’m sorry for his fans who feel betrayed and let down. I know the feeling. Bruce Willis was likeable in Death Becomes Her, but I’m not a big fan, not into action/cop/buddy-movies, and not familiar with Tracy Morgan (for which I’m now grateful) – so it’ll be easy for me to skip it.

    I have no interest in dissecting the technical work that a director does separately from the story he’s telling. I don’t care how or if he moves the camera if what the camera is focusing on is not worth focusing on.

    …You’re my hero. :) You are so refreshingly blunt and unpretentious! I hate reviewers who focus too much on the technical aspect. I don’t care about how well a movie may be shot/camera work that draws attention to itself when the story’s lacking (or appalling). It’s a shame some people avoid old movies that were shot indoors with very little camera movement…like a filmed play… and often they *are* based on plays… which is fine with me ’cause that usually means they have to hold the audience’s interest with smart dialogue and good acting…(Nothing against cool visuals, but it’s a bonus, not necessary, and my favorite directors focus more on getting good performances out of the actors, than doing fancy camera tricks). Bit off-topic, sorry. :)

  • Greg

    Just curious, has any major player in Hollywood ever just gotten up and admitted “Okay, I whored it out for this one. I knew it was crap but the offers haven’t been coming in like they used to and I needed the cash to support my divorce/drug habit/tax indictment”.

    Michael Caine in Jaws IV. He had a great quote about it, which went something like:

    “I have never seen the film, but I’ve heard it is terrible. I have seen the house it paid it for however, and it is fantastic.

  • MaryAnn

    Jeremy Irons has also acknowledged that he has taken big Hollywood paychecks in order to subsidize his other work (and not just acting work! apparently he also restores old houses, or used to, at least). Of course, the crap work he was referring to in that instance was *Die Hard with a Vengeance,* which is pretty good, as popcorn movies go, and he’s clearly not phoning it in in that movie.

    I can generally forgive an actor or director who does the high-paying studio work in order to subsidize more important/interesting work. But they have to do that other work. If Smith takes his money here and plows it into some other work that’s truly worthy of him — and in which he has something to say — then all will be forgiven.

  • LaSargenta

    Ah-ha! I just remembered. Christopher Plummer has most definately acknowledged the paycheck aspect of Sound of Music. I think there was also a movie he did with Dennis Quaid and Max Von Sydow back in the early 80’s called Dreamscape or something similar that I believe financed some Shakespeare festival.

  • Stefanie

    And Christopher Walken too: “I`ve enjoyed making movies for lots of different reasons. Sometimes, it was the other people. Sometimes, it was the fact that I was really good in it. Sometimes, it was the location. Sometimes, it was the paycheck.”

  • Jester

    It’s the rare actor, writer, or director that hasn’t admitted that this or that job was taken for the money.

    This one wasn’t the case, though. KS mentioned that he made less for this flick than he made for Dogma. He’s given the impression on O&A and other forums that he took this job because Bruce Willis asked him to (they wanted to work together after KS’s cameo in the latest Die Hard).

  • Chris

    Michael Caine admitted it as well. I remember an interview with him on CNN’s site where he mentioned Jaws:The Revenge saying, as near as I can recall: “I never actually saw the movie. But I did see the house it built and it is terrific!”

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Just curious, has any major player in Hollywood ever just gotten up and admitted “Okay, I whored it out for this one. I knew it was crap but the offers haven’t been coming in like they used to and I needed the cash to support my divorce/drug habit/tax indictment”.

    Lawrence Olivie put it best: “Money, dear boy.”

  • To be fair, no Actor, Director, or Producer would admit that he “did it for the money” of any film while it is still playing in theatres. Smith will smile and wave and do the press appearances. He’ll say nice things about the film and the actors but once it goes to DVD he’ll tell the real story.

    And I can’t fault him for that one bit. Boy’s gotta keep up that magnificent figure.

  • Who the fuck over the age of five thinks this is funny?

    I am 52 years old and thought it was funny. And if you didn’t think it was funny, then you are a great big poopyhead.

  • @abydoc3: i think they meant over the *mental* age of eight.

  • Mel

    Jeremy Irons was also in Dungeons & Dragons, though, chewing scenery like it was made of delicious marzipan. He’s definitely taken some paychecks for amazingly bad movies (Eragon was only marginally better).

    I think there are other actors who’ve straight-up admitted it, too. I know Gary Oldman once said something along the lines of being okay with being typecast as the villain because it was a steady income.

  • Boingo

    I saw it. Terrible. Fell asleep.

  • Pedro

    Oh, Kev, Kev, Kev…what happened to you?! Comedy in your movies used to be all about brilliant dialogue and more geeky references than you could shake a comicbook at. Now? You’re using nutshots.

    Seriously, Kev-O? Nutshots?! Not even your dire Jersey Girl used THAT low a form of humour! And while this isn’t as bad as that piece of tripe (at least there are SOME geeky references, as well as a genius self-referential joke by Bruce Willis), it still falls firmly behind Dogma, Chasing Amy, or Clerks 2. Heck, even Mallrats was better than this!

    So colour me disappointed, Kev. It seemed your definitive departure from the View Askewniverse would continue to yield good movies after the promising Zack and Miri. Unfortunately, this one again negates that notion, much like Jersey Girl had before it. So in conclusion, if you want to continue to be a great filmmaker, you should definitely go back to Jay and Silent Bob. Unless, of course, you’re content with making hit-or-miss pictures for the rest of your life.

    Oh, and Kev? Ditch Tracy Morgan. The man’s a hazard to public health. Listening to him is like being trapped in the moshpit at a Cannibal Corpse concert. NOT. GOOD.

    Yours sincerely, a disappointed but still loyal fan,

    Pedro.

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