dir: Joe Carnahan
This is the second goddamn movie by Joe Carnahan that I’ve seen this year. One a year is more than enough. This also has Frank Grillo in a lead role, a role which I don’t think he deserves to be in, but at least he wasn’t as tedious here as he was in Boss Level.
The other supreme advantage this flick has: no Mel Gibson (ew)
Instead of Mel Gibson, we get Gerard Butler, trying to do an American accent again, which he can’t really do, and playing, as far as I can tell, Russell Crowe.
I don’t mean he’s playing a character Russell Crowe has played. I don’t mean he’s playing a character the way Russell Crowe would. I mean I think Gerard Butler’s directions in the movie amounted to “just be like Russell Crowe is all the time except when he’s acting”.
Hence, he’s playing Russell Crowe. Oh, sure, pick at technicalities and say that the character is called Bob Viddick in the script. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t. Fucking. Matter. It’s Russell Crowe, in all his menacing and slovenly glory.
Grillo plays some other scumbag on the run from the mob called Teddy, or the feds, or the feds in cahoots with the mob. Doesn’t matter. His character is scum. What’s important is that neither of these characters is meant to be the main character. That’s meant to be Officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder), who is the best character and actor in the whole flick.
The problem is, and it’s a big problem, is that there’s so much other flick going on, and a tonne of superfluous characters, and Grillo and Butler competing for who can get the most pointless and repetitive lines. The flick also sidelines the young cop for far too long in the flick, and stretches out a thin premise far longer than it needed to be sustained.
The premise is an old one: a group of people under siege, enemies within and without. For American cinema, the level up came with John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, which paired a good cop with a criminal fighting against a horde (which updated it from the “cowboys & Indians” days).
This doesn’t have a horde, but it has a bunch of crims and dirty cops wanting to either kill Teddy and all the cops, or kill Teddy and most of the cops, or kill everyone in the building, or some variation thereof.
The position it puts the young, good cop in is: in order to survive and see another day, I have to figure out which one of these two scumbag crims is less bad than the other, and the one least likely to turn around and shoot me as well.
It’s an impossible puzzle, beyond the game theory Prisoner’s Dilemma or the ethical Trolley Problem: it’s more like Fuckhead Scumbag Bingo.
In the early phase, in the long lead up to the clinching point, the film works really well, I thought. I mean, the gun fetishism of American flicks is fucking insane to those of us lucky enough not to live in their deranged country, and there is a curious amount of it on display here. Not a single other review written by American reviewers I read even mentioned it, which shows you how inured they are to it, and still how alien it is to the rest of us, and should remain so. At the very least the lead up, showing Young interacting with her co-workers, handling a few dicey situations and coming out on top shows at least why she’s the only cool person in the flick and the only one to care about whether she lives or dies, works pretty well.
Everyone else can go to hell. There’s the sergeant who’s always yelling at people, there’s an obviously corrupt cop that everyone mocks because of his weight who is in cahoots with the… people that want to kill Teddy? The people that want to kill…the cops?
It’s good that the set up for the dominos proceeds nicely. The problem becomes, once everything is in place, the dithering that comes delaying the tipping of the dominoes, the dithering that comes as the first domino takes its sweet time to tip everything else off, and then the dozens and dozens of rubber roadblocks that make shit stumble along the way.
There is something interesting about having a guy, being Teddy, getting locked up by the cops to protect him from people who want to kill him. There’s something interesting about another chap, who pretends he’s dead drunk, in order to get locked up in the same holding cells with Teddy in order to end him. There’s something interesting about Officer Young trying to figure out who these jerks are, and why they’re here.
There’s a tension there, for now.
Once it all goes to shit, though, it’s profoundly less interesting. You have Teddy saying a variation on “Trust Me, Valerie” to the cop, and Butler growling something about Teddy being scum who’s going to kill them all if she trusts him, and that he’s her only chance.
Then they repeat the dialogue, the same fucking dialogue, around thirty times.
I really, really liked Alexis Louder as this character, in this flick. The moment she has a gun on Butler’s character, and explains that she’s shaking with nervousness because she just can’t believe she hasn’t shot him yet, is more about bringing something unique to the performance, something few other people in this flick do. Butler is solid as this contract killer with something of a begrudging crim’s honour, but repetitive. She gives great line readings, but she’s also believable as a Sarah Conneresque badass, which is always good to see in action movies.
Even if the film around her isn’t that believable. There’s no pretense of this occurring in the ‘real’ world: it’s cartoonish in its worst moments, entirely reminiscent of one of Carnahan’s other terrible films, being Smokin’ Aces, which was for me entirely trash. This is marginally better.
The thing about Grillo as Teddy is, it was good to see him playing a scummy character again. He might think he’s a hero, and I’ve heard that Grillo was angry at the screenplay for making him such a scumbag. But. Frank. Come on. You agreed to those terrible hair extensions that made you look like the oiliest gambling addict in all of Nevada, and you complain about a script in which you play a scummy villain because he’s a scummy villain and somehow not the hero? Honestly, someone thinks movie audiences are clamoring for All Grillo all of the time, and, I’m here to tell you, your reach is exceeding your grasp. When your character dies it’s an enjoyable moment for all concerned, so let’s leave it at that.
It’s a long pointless road to get there, though. Another killer comes into the mix, and, though I like Toby Huss a lot in other stuff, he was fucking irritating here. He also manages to murder a whole precinct full of cops and it’s played as joke that I did not find funny. I might agree that All Cops are Bastards (ACAB) but that doesn’t mean I want to see them die for my amusement.
The film could have lost half an hour, and you wouldn’t miss it. Edit out about twenty of those scenes where Teddy keeps saying “Trust me” and Gerard Butler Russell Crowe growls “Grr gonna kill you Teddy”, and it would have dragged way less.
To increase the stakes Officer Young gets shot, and that puts her into the position of having to decide which of the crims is the least worst, but then afterwards, they magically figure out that there should be a way for Young to have an acrobatic shootout at the end. Self-surgery, a bit of adrenalin, and she’s somersaulting and rolling around shooting bullets all over the place like she’s the reincarnation of John McClane in Die Hard. Huzzah!
It gets pretty silly. Teddy shoots someone point blank during this interminable sequence in the steamy showers: they reappear pretty much unharmed, and we have no reason to understand how or why other than Surprise! Some people get shot so many times you have to think they’re probably going to get shot some more. And then people sit around, talking about stuff when you’d be thinking “just shoot them already! Now’s no longer the time for this nonsense!”
This is not the flick to watch for quality monologues, like Shakespearean soliloquies. But then if you’re watching it just to see people get shot, even that can get tiring after a while. The ending, the very ending, implausible as it is, with Our Hero driving an ambulance and singing along with the radio, and one of the Villains, driving a car, singing along to the same Curtis Mayfield song, being Freddie’s Dead from the Superfly soundtrack, also playing on his radio, I feel completely misjudges what audiences wanted through the ending of this film. I, like, could not have wanted a different ending more. That’s not to say I should decide the endings to movies, it’s just that it left me thinking “fuck that was a pointless two hours if that’s how you’re going to end things.”
Still, I really liked Alexis Louder in this and look forward to seeing her in more stuff where she can flex her talents in other roles. Definitely not in a movie like this by Joe Carnahan again, I mean, that would be a waste. And as for Russell Crowe Butler – I’ve had enough, thanks, no more for me.
6 times Copshop as a title made me hope Paula Duncan, Lynda Stoner, John Orcsik, Terence Donovan and Terry O’Reilly from the Australian tv show of the same name were going to get a look in but no out of 10.
“Yeah, well. You’re in the cop business. So that makes you a murderer. But I'm in the murder business, so that just makes me a labourer. You see how that works?” – no, not really - Copshop