Rated R. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. 1.5 stars out of four.
The 1980s-style buddy cop action/comedy is an American film tradition. Though not usually challenging to the intellect, when they're done right, they are duly cemented as classics, quoted consistently and watched on cable forever more.
Consider "48 Hours," "Lethal Weapon," "Beverly Hills Cop." I bet you can recite a line from each of these movies right now.
If you're hoping that "Cop Out" might be the next buddy cop classic, this isn't your weekend.
Nevertheless, Kevin Smith is not shy about paying homage to the genre (if you see the movie, that should make you chuckle). First, he casts Bruce Willis — a real-life, middle-age 1980s action star — as the gruff older cop Jimmy Monroe. Then, he puts Tracy Morgan — a "Saturday Night Live" alum in his first big budget film — as his younger, mouthy partner, Paul Hodges.
"48 Hours" anyone?
Smith and screenwriters Robb and Mark Cullen also honor the era's cartoonish, ethnic stereotyped bad guys (in this case, Mexican drug dealers) and reduce female roles to beautiful innocents or vulgar banshees (a plus in this film, Susie Essman kills). If none of these tributes work for you, then the movie's "score" will (using this term loosely here). A few notes in, and it's like you're listening to the B-side of "Axel F" from "Beverly Hills Cop."
Apparently, Smith forgot what made these classics so memorable (hint: It wasn't the music or racial and gender stereotypes).
They may have been reckless and always in need of a hide-chewing by the captain, but the cops in the best buddy movies were always good at their jobs — and smarter than the bad guys.
Jimmy and Paul do get their badges and guns revoked by their ticked-off captain, but they are never smart — more like middle-school boys amped up on sugar and playing video games.
Not an attractive sight.
And neither is Morgan's running gag of drooling and wiping his nose with the back of his hand. (Yes, that is supposed to be funny.)
And what is the impetus behind Jimmy and Paul's adventure?
Jimmy's valuable baseball card was stolen and he and Paul try to get it back, so Jimmy can sell it to pay for his daughter's (Michelle Trachtenberg) fairy-tale wedding.
Along the way, they encounter Dave (Seann William Scott), the even more immature thief whose shtick is trying to say what you're saying right when you say it. (It's about as annoying as when your little brother did it to you.) Dave leads them to a homicidal drug cartel leader (an over-the-top Guillermo Diaz), who also collects baseball memorabilia.
Smith is known more for his comedies as a writer-director ("Chasing Amy," "Clerks"), and "Cop Out" is his first director-for-hire gig. It's clear he's more comfortable with the comedic, actor-focused scenes because there's an awful lot of talking — bickering, really — and not a lot of the fast-paced action sequences. The action sequences are about as gracefully edited as Morgan trying to hold his own in a fight scene (his skills are better suited to "30 Rock" parodies).
Willis seemed uncomfortable in this role, as if he's unsure where he fits these days. The energy and attitude he normally carries so easily would've been a boost to this underwhelming effort.
"Cop Out" isn't entirely a bust. The opening interrogation scene is worth a couple of views (especially since the crowd's laughter drowned out a lot of the dialogue).
And Morgan fans will be happy to see him do a lot of whatever it is he does that his fans seems to like.
For the rest of us, "Cop Out" is a lazy Friday night rental at best.