Cop Out is the new movie by Kevin Smith. It is also a rather large pile of horse dung, but let’s focus on the other bit first.
We saw Cop Out at the sneak preview here in Frankfurt a while ago, and although the experience can only be described as painful, I am still happy that we saw it. Why, you say? Well, the thing is: I like Kevin Smith.
…let me rephrase that. I think some of his movies are good. Dogma has some structural issues, but is all in all a very good movie. Clerks certainly deserves some of its cult status. I don’t remember enough about Chasing Amy to have an educated opinion on the matter, but the vague feeling that it was good has to come from somewhere. And I really liked Jersey Girl, which had the added bonus of being less… permeated with fecal humour than his other works (hold that thought). And then there’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Mallrats. I shall decline to speak of those movies here and now, because Cop Out has enough faults to fill an article all by its own and doesn’t need any help from them.
Yes… where was I? Oh, I remember: I was going to explain why I was glad that we saw Cop Out. Because I would have wondered, that’s why. The movie got good reviews in Germany, God knows why, and although the critical reaction in the rest of the world was far from favourable, this got me doubting. Maybe there was some good to this one after all. Bruce Willis is an excellent actor, so is Seann William Scott, given the right direction. And after all I liked Kevin Smith. (And then there was the trailer, two and a half minutes so dreadful that I’d rather go visit the dentist than watch it again. That should have stopped me doubting, right then and there.) Anyway. I know that I would always have wondered, and now I know.
Cop Out seems to strive to fulfill but one goal: to have the highest poo joke/dialogue ratio ever measured in a motion picture. And I think it succeeds quite well at this. Admirably so, as a matter of fact. After all, once you’ve heard Tracy Morgan’s five-minute diarrhea-monologue, you never need to hear another poo joke in your life. That particular piece of sterling writing really says it all. And if you weren’t very partial to feces-based witticisms in the first place, then maybe you should have left after the opening credits were done.
Because that is all that Cop Out really is. Sure, there’s a story underneath it all. Somewhere. You got your basic buddy cop (version B) storyline. Two seasoned police officers, best friends and law-abiding citizens both, blunder up a case, get suspended and need to redeem themselves/catch the true perpetrators/just feel the need to kick some gangsta-ass. Mix in some personal problems, like, say, a cheating wife or an ex-wife with a slimy new husband and you’ve got yourselves a plot. Garnish with poo jokes and you’ve got Cop Out. (In case you’re wondering: buddy cop version A is when two cops get forced to work together, first hate each other and then find out that they are the best friends ever. Lethal Weapon in a very good example of that.)
The acting is mixed. Bruce Willis is good, mostly due to the fact that he is playing the straight guy to Tracy Morgan’s… thing. A German review praised Morgan to the heavens, saying that his performance in Cop Out is much more nuanced and subtle than his over-the-top performance in 30 Rock. If that is the case I never, ever, in my whole life, want to see 30 Rock. Ever. For fear of brain damage, you see. I wish I was joking when I say that there isn’t a single line of Morgan’s in Cop Out that isn’t delivered screaming and in many cases also slobbering. Yes, you heard me right. Apparently Mr. Smith thinks it’s funny if people slobber (a lot) in “emotional” moments.
Cop Out is the first motion picture directed but not written by Smith. I fear that doesn’t show very much. The two main characters could just as well be called Jay & Silent Bruce for all the difference it would make. Although just calling them Jay & Jay might be more truthful. I liked Kevin Smith’s earlier movies, but I always thought the character of Jay was taking the infantile humor a little too far. If you liked Jay, well, then I’m glad to tell you that Cop Out is the movie for you. Essence de Jay, so to speak. The script by the Cullen brothers (not Edward, but Mark and Robb) goes straight for the toilet bowl. And stays there. Even the scenes between Paul (Tracey Morgan) and his wife (Rashida Jones) lack any kind of dignity. It’s all oral fixation and double penetration and gay jokes.
And then there’s Seann William Scott, who plays his part well, and with vigor. Enthusiasm might be the right word. Maniacal glee would be two others. He’s really good, but unfortunately his part is deeply submerged in a mire of feces. He deserves better. Movies like Dude, Where’s My Car and above all Southland Tales have showed us that he is a truly talented actor that maybe just went down the wrong road after American Pie.
The look of the film (Smith’s highest-budget movie so far) is mediocre. Kevin Smith has never been one of those directors who know how to use stunning visuals to tell a story, and in truth such visuals aren’t necessary as long as the story holds up its end of the deal. In Cop Out, a fast-paced action comedy with no story worth mentioning, visuals might have been a redeeming factor. But they aren’t.
The music is forceful. The score itself is very 80s, and there’s lots of rap, mostly with South or Middle American influences, placed at the right moments. Problem is that I don’t like rap, no matter where it comes from, but I acknowledge freely that other minds might and may enjoy it. So at least on the music side Cop Out isn’t an epic fail.
Summing up: I still believe that Kevin Smith can make good movies, given the right subject and talented actors, but Cop Out isn’t one of them. A sad mistake maybe, prominent enough to cause Bruce Willis some nightmares and to drag Seann William Scott’s career even further into the muck. But nothing more.
I do believe, firmly, that anything creative is art. There is such a thing as unsuccessful art, or misguided art, but all movies or books or paintings are art, in their own way. That having been said, Cop Out really makes me doubt my beliefs. Thoroughly.