When I first heard that Kevin Smith was making a film called A Couple of Dicks, I was in. When I heard that Kevin Smith was making a film with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, I was in. When I heard the title was being changed to Cop Out, I was mildly disappointed but I was still in. When I saw the first trailer and it did not look like a Kevin Smith film, I was in but to a slightly lesser degree. When I saw the red-band trailer and it felt more like a Keven Smith movie, I felt reassured and I was in. When I learned that Kevin Smith did not write the script, I became curious. Now that I have seen the film, I am out and I feel sad.
Supposedly, before Warner Brothers and Kevin Smith got the screenplay out of turnaround it was on the blacklist, meaning it was considered one of the best currently unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. If that is the case, there must not be all that many good scripts out there. This one, written by Robb and Mark Cullen, has a few funny moments but is otherwise devoid of heart, character, and discernible plot. It also feels like it received a bit of a punch-up by Smith, although he has said that kept very close to the original screenplay.
Well, here is the story, such as it is. Jimmy (Willis) and Paul (Morgan) are detectives and have been partners for a long time. They are good at what they do, but they tend to be a little unconventional — think Riggs and Murtagh. Their latest screw-up finds them suspended without pay. This seems like a small setback for these two as Paul worries about potential marital infidelity and Jimmy is worried about paying for his daughter's wedding. It all comes together as the bad guy they are chasing happens to have stolen Jimmy's valuable baseball card that was to be used to pay for the wedding.
I guess that's about it as far as the plot goes. The in between moments are filled with shootouts and plenty of conversations involving bodily functions and fluids. Now, don't get me wrong, I am all for shootouts and bodily fluid humor, but there needs to be something more. This movie does not have that something more.
I sat there in the theater with people laughing around me, wondering what they saw that I didn't. I was envious of their experience — what they had is what I wanted. I tend to be on the optimistic side of things when I go to the movies and I really wanted to like this, but I just couldn't. It was devoid of anything interesting and I could not bring myself to care.
Like I already mentioned, the screenplay fails to deliver on anything. I will admit to there being a few funny moments but they are few and far between, not to mention most of them being in the trailers. What I was hoping for was characters that I never got. That is what makes Kevin Smith's screenplays work so well. He may revel in grade school potty humor, but his work in vulgarity is poetry. He weaves it into stories of friendship, camaraderie, and human experience. Of course it is all done in a stylized manner and is not "real" despite having a very specific reality. This film does not have that. It goes for the quick joke and moves on.
The performances don't really help. Bruce Willis is sleepwalking through the role. It does not look like he really wants to be there. On the other hand, Tracy Morgan doesn't seem to have anywhere else to go and he brought his 30 Rock character with him. As for the rest? Does it really matter? None of the pieces go together and none of their threads have any sort of impact.
So far as Smith's direction goes, it is an interesting development in his growth. He has never been a very visual director. He is far more likely to lock the camera down and make sure the actors stay in frame than he is to move around. I am sure this has more to do with him primarily being a writer. Here the camera moves a lot — tracking shots, crane shots, more movement than has ever been in a Smith film. I would not say he was terribly good, but it was serviceable. I only wish the movie was more worthwhile.
Bottom line. I daresay this is the worst film in Kevin Smith's canon. Is it a coincidence that it is the first he has not written? I would like to hope so. I also want to hope that he gets back to writing and rectifies the situation with his next film. In the meantime, I suggest skipping Cop Out and instead take in one of his other films, perhaps Zack and Miri Make a Porno or Clerks 2. Both have the vulgar humor you crave along with better characters and actual heart.