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Cop Secret movie review: cold fuzz (#LFF2021)

MaryAnn’s quick take: Absolutely hilarious Icelandic sendup of action buddy cop movies. Knowing, sneaky, and deliciously deadpan, upending toxic masculinity and elevating the usual subtext of the genre to the overt text.
I’m “biast” (pro): love a good action comedy
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

There’s a bit of a smack at everything from Die Hard and Bad Boys to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Cop Secret, an absolutely hilarious sendup of action buddy cop movies straight outta *checks notes* Iceland. And delightfully — like Hot Fuzz, the flick it may be closest to in spirit — this is also a pretty good on-the-level example of the genre, too, filled with clever, well-choreographed fisticuffs, gun battles, and car chases, all dished out by a memorable pair of police partners destined to become iconic.

It’s clear that cowriter and director Hannes Þór Halldórsson, making his feature debut after a career as a professional football player, has a lot of love and respect for the tropes and clichés he gleefully rips to shreds. He’s deliciously deadpan with it all: His antihero, Bússi (Auðunn Blöndal, also a coscreenwriter), is “the toughest cop in Reykjavik,” one who drives an American muscle car, drinks too much (often simultaneously), and has no respect for the rules, much to the despair of his long-suffering commander (Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir).

Cop Secret Egill Einarsson Auðunn Blöndal
TFW you have, like, five seconds to come up with a really good catchphrase-insult before the latest lowlife who needs taking out is upon you…

Now Bússi is forced to team up with Hörður (Egill Einarsson), a rival “supercop” from another jurisdiction who is his polar opposite is almost every way, a suave sophisticate to Bússi’s messed-up slob. They’re on the case of a series of mysterious bank incursions by armed “robbers” who don’t steal anything. The bad guys are led by a psychopath with the snort-inducing moniker of Rikki Ferrari (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson), speaking in American-accented English in an arch inversion of the Hollywood stereotype of the Eurotrash villain. (His henchpeople speak Icelandic, as does almost everyone else onscreen.)

Halldórsson’s humor is very knowing: Cop Secret is constantly upending toxic masculinity and cheekily elevating the usual subtext of these sorts of movies to the overt text. But he’s very sneaky, too, tossing in gags like grenades. I laughed out loud a lot; it’s a rare movie that can surprise me like this one did, again and again. Halldórsson knows we know what he’s pulling here, and he uses that to full comedic advantage.

Cop Secret Sverrir Þór Sverrisson Vivian Ólafsdóttir
“That’s henchperson! It’s 2021: a woman can be a villain’s platonic sidekick!”

On even more meta levels, Cop Secret is refreshing in other ways. For one, it suggests how well Iceland has weathered COVID: the film was shot in and around Reykjavik over last autumn and winter, with an entirely Icelandic cast not apparently social-distancing at all. (The credits do mention a “pandemic terminator,” which sounds rather ominous.) One character even references the fact that the year here, in which seemingly no one is concerned about a deadly virus, is 2021, which feels like a punch in the gut to anyone watching from elsewhere.

Or maybe this is happening in an alternate universe in which Reykjavik actually is the hellhole Bússi keeps insisting it is. Because the real Reykjavik is one of the safest cities on the planet; violent crime is almost nonexistent in Iceland. And so built into the absurdity of Cop Secret, the overarching joke of it all, is not only the preposterousness of a cop like Bússi, but particularly the preposterousness of a cop like Bússi in Reykjavik. I hope that means that this movie is immune from Hollywood’s impetus to remake terrific non-English-language movies.(The film does not yet have release dates outside Iceland, where it opens today, but it’s easy to see it having successful arthouse, or at least VOD, runs in the US and the UK.) Move the action to Los Angeles, and much — not all, but a lot — of what makes Cop Secret so terrific would vanish.

viewed as part of 2021’s 65th BFI London Film Festival

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