'Cop Out': On The Bad Side Of The Thin Blue Line

Tracy Morgan, Bruce Willis

Dumb and Dumber: Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis play Paul and Jimmy, two New York detectives who are more successful at blaxploitation and toilet humor than actual law enforcement. Cop Out is the first feature filmmaker Kevin Smith has directed but not written — though you wouldn't know it from all the fart jokes. Warner Bros. Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Warner Bros. Pictures

Cop Out

  • Director: Kevin Smith
  • Genre: Action/Comedy
  • Running Time: 107 minutes
Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, violence and brief sexuality

With: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Adam Brody, Kevin Pollack

There was a time when Kevin Smith used to be a filmmaker. In some of his early projects — Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma — his relaxed style and ear for disaffected twentysomething dialogue shaped unpromising ideas into enormously sellable movies.

A great deal of this box-office success relied on the recognition that Smith sincerely loves his job: Making movies has transformed him from a chubby geek with no date to a happily married man with a wildly supportive fan base. Acknowledging this, his films most often field characters aching for similar transformations: losers and stoners who express themselves in the motifs of popular culture and live in the reflected light of TV and movie screens.

Cop Out is the first of Smith's features to be written by others (Rob and Mark Cullen share that dubious honor), though the abundance of fecal humor and penis references blurs the distinction. Originally blessed with the far superior (and presumably non-Warner Bros.-approved) title A Couple of Dicks, the film revolves around a pair of NYPD cops, longtime partners named Jimmy (Bruce Willis) and Paul (Tracy Morgan). Their beat is Brooklyn, and their shtick is blaxploitation cool (they call themselves White Lightning and Black Thunder); their job performance, on the other hand, is pure Clouseau.

Beginning as it means to go on, the movie introduces a thief (Seann William Scott) more interested in defecating in his victims' homes than stealing from them. Observing this criminal quirk, Paul launches into a lengthy soliloquy on his apparently Guinness Book of Records-worthy bowel movements, a speech as pointless as it is disgusting. It does, however, warn us that what we are about to experience will be little more than an extended evacuation of bad ideas and worse jokes, wrapped around performances so smugly deadpan they're almost ingenious homages to their 1980s forbears.

Tracy Morgan i i

Full Of It: Tracy Morgan plays the ridiculous Paul (a.k.a. Black Thunder), a cop who thinks very highly of his bowel movements but serves as little more than a vehicle for Morgan's screeching persona. Warnes Bros. Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Warnes Bros. Pictures
Tracy Morgan

Full Of It: Tracy Morgan plays the ridiculous Paul (a.k.a. Black Thunder), a cop who thinks very highly of his bowel movements but serves as little more than a vehicle for Morgan's screeching persona.

Warnes Bros. Pictures

From Lethal Weapon to 48 Hrs. to Miami Vice, the buddy-cop movie (and TV show) has a long and revered tradition in American culture. Here, instead of constantly winking at genre cliches, Smith has his actors play it straight in a plot that's simply a hacked-up framework for Willis and Morgan to use like a jungle gym. On the trail of a priceless baseball card that Jimmy needs to pay for his daughter's wedding (and maintain his self-respect before his ex-wife's wealthy new husband), the duo must tangle with a Central Casting-approved Mexican gangster (Guillermo Diaz) and assorted Hispanic hoods. Along the way, they're lumbered with a hot Latina (Ana de la Reguera), who, when captured by the gangster, toggles inexplicably between terrified and fiery. Maybe she just wanted to show her range.

Little more than a vehicle for Morgan and his screeching persona, Cop Out encourages the actor to flatten the scenery. Tedious to watch and torture to listen to — the language reaches a new level of foulness when it emanates from the mouth of an 11-year-old boy — the film is bearable only when Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody are on screen. Their too-brief moments as the yin cops to Jimmy and Paul's yang are like those oases during a migraine when the pain subsides and you allow yourself to hope that the worst is over.

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