It is a generally accepted fact that the law of diminishing returns applies to movie sequels. The further away you get from the source the weaker the film. Now, of course “Cop Out,” the new buddy cop movie from Kevin Smith, isn’t a sequel. It only feels like one. One with the number 3 or 4 in the title. It is, more correctly stated, an homage to the buddy cop movies of the 1980s like “48 Hrs.” and “Lethal Weapon.” But it begs the question: When does a movie stop being an homage and start being simply a rehash?
Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan play Jimmy and Paul, veteran NYPD cops. They are the typical wildcard movie cops who cause as much carnage as they prevent. After a drug bust gone wrong they are both suspended for thirty days without pay. The without pay part is a tough pill to swallow for Jimmy, whose daughter is about to be married. To come up with $48,000 he needs to foot the bill for her ceremony he decides to sell his prized possession—a rare, mint condition baseball card. When it is stolen before he is able to sell it he and Paul begin their own investigation, which leads them to an obnoxious drugged out thief (Seann William Scott) and a violent drug lord named after a Louisiana sandwich, Poh Boy (Guillermo Díaz).
“Cop Out” is Kevin Smith’s first studio film and marks the first time in fifteen years that indie overlords Harvey and Bob Weinstein haven’t been calling the shots. Not that it seems to have made much difference. Smith’s trademarked vulgar humor is firmly in place—although in smaller doses than usual and without the sweet edge that Judd Apatow brings to this type of comedy—so fans of bodily function jokes will not be disappointed. No, all the marks of classic Smith are here and the only real difference between “Cop Out” and Smith’s low budget work is the addition of more crane shots, bigger stars and higher production value. The only thing missing is a cameo from Silent Bob… and the action and laughs you’d expect from this kind of comedy.
Smith, it must be said, isn’t an action director. His ham fisted way with the climatic shootout scenes (that’s not a spoiler, you HAD to know this would end up in a shootout) is clumsy and sucks the fun out of the film’s latter moments. Worse, it’s not nearly funny enough. Smith seems to find the characters much funnier than they actually are, allowing scene after scene to drag on past their breaking point.
There are some laughs, mostly courtesy of Morgan, who, although he is essentially playing his “30 Rock” character, brings an unhinged energy to every scene he’s in.
His unpredictability, however, is the only unpredictable thing about the movie. It rehashes (there’s that word again) every cliché from the buddy cop genre, including stereotyped bad guys who make Tony Montana look subdued.
According to answers.com the meaning of cop out is “a failure to fulfill a commitment or responsibility,” and I can’t help but think that the movie’s title squares with this definition. Kevin Smith may have been committed to the project, but he failed to fulfill the responsibility of making a good movie.