What happened to Kevin Smith? There was a time when his name was synonymous with intelligent humor and storytelling. He hasn’t always had the sharpest visual style, but you could at least count on finding some good performances and witty dialogue in every one of his films. The years have not been kind to Smith, with films like Jersey Girl and Zack and Miri Make A Porno cluttering up his resume. But now, with Cop Out Smith has outdone himself. Not only is this the worst film he’s ever made, it’s one of the worst films the buddy-cop genre has seen in years.
To be fair, this is his first time directing a film that he didn’t write. That being said, he still read the script and made the decision that this was a film that he wanted to make. I can’t fathom what appeal this story held for him. There is not a single original idea to be found in the story of two mismatched cops trying to recover a stolen baseball card. Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan play the two cops, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pair of actors with less chemistry. It’s the director’s job to bring out the best in their actors, and Smith blew it this time.
In watching Willis’ performance, I couldn’t believe this was the same actor who played John McClane in Die Hard. He had an energy and charisma in that performance. Here, he looked bored and miserable. Tracy Morgan took the exact opposite approach. For some reason, he thought it would be funny to shout all of his lines and to be as over-the-top as possible. I love Morgan in 30 Rock, and even though he was playing a variation on the same character, it came across obnoxious here.
Ironically enough, the only actor who came out with some dignity was the one actor I normally can’t stand, Sean William Scott. He wasn’t funny, per se, but it felt like he was trying. Morgan didn’t trust the material given, and shouted his lines to compensate. Scott seemed to appreciate his character, and tried to let the material provide the laughs instead of forcing them through his performance. Don’t get me wrong, his character wasn’t actually funny. I just appreciate that Scott tried to incorporate a little more subtlety, and seemed to be having a good time.
Overall, this was just a waste for all involved. I don’t know if the film was supposed to be an homage or a spoof of the buddy-cop genre. What I do know is that the original films this was referencing were vastly superior in every way. This was just a cheap recreation, all the way down to the synthesized soundtrack. Smith’s shooting was as bland as ever, and the story was pretty much non-existant.
Having said all that, I was kind of impressed with the Blu-Ray release of the film. Presented in “Maximum Comedy Mode,” this is an elaboration of the standard audio commentaries. Basically, Smith takes control of the film, and provides whatever insight he feels like whenever he feels like it. He occasionally pauses the movie, fast forwards it, etc. Sometimes, he’s providing audio commentary, and at other times, he’s actually on screen explaining things to you. He also periodically cuts away to deleted scenes or raw footage, none of which is all that interesting. In this format, the film runs about 2 hours, and 55 minutes, but it’s vastly more entertaining. Smith genuinely seems excited to be presenting the film this way. Perhaps he’s just a good showman, but at times, I started to believe that he actually likes the movie and had fun making it.
The other extras on the set are also presented in this “Maximum Comedy Mode,” but they aren’t part of the actual film presentation. You press enter when given the cue, and that takes you out of the movie and into those features. These segments are divided into two categories, “Focus Points” and “Wisdom from the S**t Bandit.” The Focus Points are just little asides from other people involved in the production on various topics. Some are interesting, and most aren’t. The “Wisdom from the S**t Bandit” features are basically rip-offs of the classic Jack Handy segments from Saturday Night Live, only nowhere as funny. You can watch all of these features independently from the film as well.
I wish this was a better movie. I was excited at the prospect of a cop movie featuring Willis and Morgan, and directed by Smith. There were so many ways this could have gone right. Unfortunately, a buddy-cop film lives and dies with the chemistry of its leads, and this film is dead on arrival.