COP OUT - Blu-ray review looks as though everyone in the film had a better time making it than the audience has watching it.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

You may find the following bit of trivia irrelevant, but I find it fascinating: Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith both came to cinematic prominence in the early Nineties, and both filmmakers have performed in as many movies as they've written, directed, or produced. In addition, both men are proud of their being largely self-taught in the film business, educations derived from their lifelong love affairs with movies. Tarantino began with "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction," worked his way through "Jackie Brown" and "Kill Bill," and as of this writing wound up with a slew of Oscar nominations for 2009's "Inglorious Basterds." Smith began with "Clerks," worked his way through "Mallrats," "Chasing Amy," and "Dogma," and as of this writing wound up with 2010's "Cop Out."

From what I've read, Smith did not take kindly to critics panning his film and responded in a series of Internet messages, basically claiming that "Cop Out" was funnier than critics gave it credit and suggesting that critics just didn't get it, didn't understand what he was trying to do in the film, didn't understand the film's humor. Apparently, audiences didn't get it either, the film barely recovering at the box office the money it took to make it. Thank goodness for DVD and Blu-ray sales.

Insofar as what Smith was trying to do in the film, the director explains it pretty well in his audio-video commentary on the Blu-ray disc. He says he wanted to make a buddy-cop film resembling the ones he remembered from the Eighties. Moreover, he wanted not only to pay homage to these older films but to poke fun at them as well, much as Tarantino did in his World War II homage and satire "Inglorious Basterds." The difference is that Tarantino succeeded better in his ambitions than Smith did. "Cop Out" is neither thrilling enough to be a proper tribute nor funny enough to be a good parody. The whole thing flounders, despite its two talented stars, Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan.

Smith's idea was to make a white cop/black cop buddy film in the tradition of "Beverly Hills Cop," "Lethal Weapon," and "48 Hours," with a little of "The Last Boy Scout," "Rush Hour," "Freebie and the Bean" and "Butch Cassidy" thrown in. Then, not content, the overly ambitious Smith took it a step further, and we get allusions to "Heat," Training Day," "Scarface," "Star Wars," "Schindler's List," "The Color Purple," "Cool Hand Luke," "They Call Me Mr. Tibbs," even "Jaws." And that's just in one early scene. After that, the film treats us to "The French Connection," the "Bourne" films, "The Untouchables," "Serpico," "Deliverance," "Robocop," "Quantum of Solace," "Sex and the City," "Fletch," and about a hundred more film sources. The trouble is, the movie, penned by TV writers Robb and Mark Cullen, explains each of these references rather than letting viewers figure them out for themselves. It's all so unsubtle, it spoils the fun and before long it begins to seem as though Smith and company are simply showing off.

Anyway, the story involves a pair of New York City detectives, partners Jimmy Monroe (Willis) and Paul Hodges (Morgan), investigating a stolen baseball card. The card is worth a small fortune, and it belongs to Jimmy, who needs to sell it to pay for his daughter's extravagant upcoming wedding. But a criminal steals the card before Jimmy can get his money for it, leading him and his partner on a personal quest that leads them into the machinations of a big-time drug lord (Guillermo Diaz).

Now, here's the thing: Willis is pretty good in the film, basically reprising his "Die Hard" character and handling the comedy in a fairly nuanced, tongue-in-cheek manner. He seems alternately amused and bemused by the goings on. It's Morgan who gets the thankless job of providing the broader humor. However, Morgan plays his character so broadly, his behavior and attitude so exaggerated and crazed, the character comes off at times appearing mentally challenged. Basically, Morgan's character is an idiot, like his chasing a baddie while riding a bicycle and wearing a cell-phone costume (don't ask; it wasn't funny in the movie, and it would be even less funny if I tried explaining it).

To make matters worse, Seann William Scott shows up as the thief who steals the baseball card, and if you've seen Scott in any previous film (take your choice), you know how annoying he can be. Here, he seems to be improvising most of the time, and while it might have been funny for him and the actors at the time, it just looks and sounds amateurish on screen. Amazingly, he's still one of the best parts of the picture.

Then there's the musical track. Smith tells us he wanted the music to remind us of the cop films of the Eighties, going so far as to lure composer Harold Faltermeyer ("Fletch," "Top Gun," "Beverly Hills Cop," "The Running Man") back to movies. So, from the opening shot on we get loud, obnoxious Beastie Boys kind of stuff, and it almost never lets up throughout the picture. The music is almost as irritating as Morgan's and Scott's characters.

Now, I'm not blaming Smith entirely for the film's shortcomings. Indeed, Smith moves the film along at a commendable pace. His part in the film's falling short was in not keeping a watchful enough eye on the actors, their characterizations, or their improvisations, and, of course, in choosing an insubstantial screenplay in the first place (the first script he'd ever directed that he hadn't written himself).

Oh, well. Smith is a talented fellow, and he'll easily recover from "Cop Out."

More trivia: One of the disc's featurettes explains that the filmmakers originally titled the movie "A Couple of Dicks," a pun referring to two detectives and also, well, you get the idea. The studio understandably chose not go with the original title and copped out with a bland title of their own. Smith decided that "Cop Out" would be a suitable compromise since it was an appropriate pun on the studio's title decision.

WB video engineers look like they've done their best to ensure good high-definition reproduction on the Blu-ray disc, using a dual-layer BD50 and a VC-1 codec to transfer the picture to disc in its original aspect ratio, 2.40:1. Colors are realistic and bright, yet not so bright as to be cartoonish. Object delineation, while not absolutely crystalline, is at least clean and clear. A modest print grain provides a bit of texture to the image. And solid black levels set off the hues nicely.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is more loud than it is robust. Still, it displays a strong impact, wide dynamics, and a deep bass. There is an anomaly, though: While it exhibits an ample front-channel stereo spread, it doesn't do much with the surrounds, which get fed only the slightest degree of ambient musical reinforcement and a few miscellaneous traffic noises and gunshots.

The primary extra on this "Rock Out with Your Glock Out Edition" is a doozie. Called a "Maximum Comedy Mode," it's an elaborate picture-in-picture affair wherein director Kevin Smith and others take you on a tour of the movie while you're watching it. Using inserts, walk-ons, extended scenes, outtakes, storyboards, featurettes, pop-up trivia, and Smith's constantly humorous (and profane) patter, the "Maximum Comedy Mode" is about ten times more entertaining than the movie itself. It's also about an hour longer than the regular movie, what with all the additions. Highly recommended. Instead of the regular movie.

Next, we get a series of nine Focus Points, brief featurettes from the MCM that total about twenty-one minutes, followed by "Wisdom from the Shit Bandit," about four minutes of aphorisms from Dave, the character played by Seann William Scott. Things wind down with twenty-five scene selections; BD-Live access; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese spoken languages; French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Finally, because this is a Blu-ray Combo Pack, it includes the movie in high definition on a Blu-ray disc and the movie in standard definition on a DVD, plus a digital copy of the movie for iTunes or Windows Media (the offer expiring July 18, 2011).

Parting Shots:
"Cop Out" could have been a funnier, more charming, maybe even more exciting buddy-cop movie spoof had Kevin Smith started with a better script and kept a tighter rein on his actors. As it is, it looks as though everyone in the film had a better time making it than the audience has watching it.


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