“You could only do your best.”
I’m a huge Kevin Smith fan. I know that’s not the cool thing to say these days, but it’s the truth. I love his first five films, I honestly think Jersey Girl is pretty good (though I’m still hoping the R-rated cut sees the light of day), Clerks II is awesome, and Zack and Miri Make a Porno is great. I was very entertained by his An Evening with Kevin Smith Q&A releases and I consider Clerks: The Animated Series to be one of my favourite cartoons. For roughly 15 years I enjoyed Smith’s work and, despite a few missteps, I always looked forward to whatever he was working on.
However, that changed prior to the release of Cop Out. For as long as I’ve been a fan there has always been a backlash towards Smith’s work and that backlash was at its peak around 2010. Smith started acting like an asshole far more than usual (which many blame on Seth Rogen for introducing him to marijuana, apparently) and his 2010 Southwest Airlines incident didn’t do him any favours. I was already wary of Cop Out knowing Smith didn’t write the script, so when the terrible reviews started pouring in, and Smith started flipping out about them, I decided to pass on seeing it in theater. I didn’t bother with it on home video either upon initial release and for a few years I more or less gave up on Kevin Smith.
At this point Smith’s career took an even stranger turn as he abandoned comedy for horror, releasing Red State in 2011 and Tusk in 2014. I skipped Red State upon release as I was still ambivalent towards Smith and Tusk sounded like a ripoff of The Human Centipede, something I had no intention of watching. I just wanted Smith to return to comedy, preferably to finishing that damn hockey film, Hit Somebody, which he’s been promising for nearly 10 years now. Sigh.
Anyway, last September I finally decided to give Red State a shot and it wasn’t bad. It’s far from great, but it was good enough to keep me interested, had a few solid performances, and was unpredictable. Later that year I watched Tusk and it was more of the same. Not bad, not great, but strangely enjoyable and different. That left Cop Out as Smith’s only film I had yet to see, so being the OCD completionist that I am, I begrudgingly sat down to watch it.
“Well that’s a fucking cop out.”
Nothing could have prepared me for just how awful this movie is. Everything I’d read about it was true, from the horrible performances to being completely devoid of humour. However, I don’t recall anyone mentioning the one word I would use to sum up this train wreck; annoying. It’s utterly annoying from top to bottom. I’ve watched a ton of bad movies in my lifetime and Cop Out may not be the worst but it certainly annoyed me more than any other film that I can recall.
The annoyance begins with the plot, an insipid tale of idiocy. A lot of great comedy films have dumb story lines used solely as a platform for jokes, but Cop Out’s story doesn’t even serve that purpose. Despite the fact that none of the jokes are funny, I don’t recall a single one having anything to do with the story, a story that’s needlessly convoluted and moronic.
In short, it’s about two cops, Jimmy (Bruce Willis) and Paul (Tracy Morgan), who suck at their job and life in general. Jimmy’s daughter is getting married and he wants to pay for the wedding himself by selling a baseball card, even though his ex-wife’s new husband is loaded and willing to foot the bill. Now I don’t know about you, but most guys I know wouldn’t give two shits about someone else covering the cost of a ridiculously overpriced wedding. Pride? Fuck that. Maybe if you’re also rich and throwing a lavish wedding is a chance to prove it, but why give a shit if you can’t afford it? Nonetheless, Jimmy goes to sell the card, it gets stolen, they try to get it back, yada yada yada, the card gets destroyed and the new husband pays for the wedding anyway.
It’s a dumb, useless plot, but what makes it annoying is that Jimmy and Paul are suspended from the force before any of this goes down, making all of their actions reckless and illegal. They even agree to work with known felons and endanger the lives of innocents, all for a fucking baseball card. Sure, OK, they’re trying to do the right thing as well eventually, but they never should have been in this situation to begin with and had plenty of opportunity to do the right thing before it went completely out of hand at the end. As for the subplot involving Paul and his wife, who he suspects is cheating on him, it’s something we’ve seen a million times before and probably only exists to pad the runtime of this abomination. Oh, and obviously she’s not cheating on him, but after spending five minutes with Paul you’ll wonder how she hasn’t killed herself.
Paul is the most annoying character I’ve ever encountered in a movie. Morgan’s performance is basically The Fifth Element Chris Tucker crossed with The Waterboy Adam Sandler. Paul is loud, childlike, whiny, incoherent, oblivious, nonsensical, and dimwitted, which makes his occasional moments of intellect all the more unbelievable. Even in a fictional comedy I can’t comprehend how this moron is a cop. To be fair, I’ve never liked Morgan, but I’ve also never hated him to this degree. In all seriousness, I’d watch a standalone Star Wars film focused on Jar Jar Binks before I’d rewatch Cop Out.
As for the other actors involved, it’s a clusterfuck of wasted potential. Literally no one gives a shit, especially Willis, having provided better performances in the recent Die Hard sequels and The Whole Ten Yards. Actually, Willis does come off rather convincing whenever Jimmy is annoyed by Paul, but a corpse could convincingly be annoyed by Paul so that’s not saying much. The rest of the cast is just as lazy, which sucks because they’ve all been great in the past. The competing buddy cop duo of Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects) and Adam Brody (The O.C.) is lifeless, Guillermo Díaz (Half Baked) is an unfunny racist caricature, Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation) is unlikable, Jason Lee (Mallrats) phones it in, and Seann William Scott (Goon) is even more irritating than usual Seann William Scott. The best performance in the film comes courtesy of Ana de la Reguera (Eastbound & Down), although you can chalk that up to her speaking only in Spanish, thus avoiding all the clumsy dialogue that I unfortunately understood.
How much of the blame for this travesty lies with Kevin Smith? Hard to say really. He didn’t write the script and I never noticed any obvious Smith-like dialogue, meaning he must have shot it mostly as is. Cop Out doesn’t look any better or worse than your typical run-of-the-mill buddy cop film, but Smith’s never been a good action director so I’d put blame on the studio for hiring him. Nevertheless, Smith didn’t do himself any favours by apparently being stoned throughout filming and he didn’t get along with Willis, which certainly played a role during production. Smith likely treated the film with less respect compared to working on one of his own films and that’s simply unjustified when you’re paid to do a job the best that you can. It’s unlikely Smith could have turned this into even an average film, but I’d like to think he could have at least got a little bit more out of this cast. Smith being high all the time might also explain Morgan’s overly annoying performance. Could the pot have made it more tolerable and perhaps even funny? I can’t see it, but weed does affect people differently and I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that it’s negatively affecting Smith’s judgement.
Overall, Cop Out is a complete waste of time for both viewers and everyone involved. I feel bad giving it the time of day and even worse writing about it, but I’m not gonna lie, it’s somewhat intoxicating to write about shit you hate. I’d also like to point out that even though this is easily Smith’s worst film, Cop Out somehow managed to become his highest grossing directorial effort, making roughly 35% more than his next highest grossing film. I guess that’s all you need to know about the world we live in.
“You’re just washed up and you’re tired.”
Despite studios having largely turned their back on him, Kevin Smith won’t be going away any time soon, having announced at least five different upcoming projects (including sequels to fan favourites). That’s OK, because Smith has never been bankable really and he’s at his best working on low-budget films that play to his strengths. However, his lack of focus appears to be worse than ever. He needs to get back to pouring everything he can into one project at a time, regain some credibility in the eyes of his fans, and maybe stop pimping out his own daughter in everything he does.
I’m cautiously optimistic for the Mallrats sequel, now titled MallBrats, and I’m all-in for Clerks III (I can never have enough Dante and Randal in my life), but the other projects sound awful. Yoga Hosers seems like it’s just an excuse for Smith and Johnny Depp to spend time with their daughters, Helena Handbag sounds like a ridiculous retread of Dogma on steroids, and Moose Jaws is, well, Jaws with a moose. Come on!
Oh well, at least I’ll always have this.