Review: Kevin Smith's 'Cop Out' is a real hom-age

Posted Monday, March 1, 2010 at 3:07 PM Central
Last updated Monday, March 1, 2010 at 3:32 PM Central

by John Couture

For those of you who haven't yet seen Cop Out, first what are you waiting for? It's a Kevin Smith movie for heaven's sake, it's going to make you laugh. And second, you might want to hold off on my review that is about to come forth in this story because while I will try to remain spoiler free, I can't make any promises.

If you've frequented this site with any sense of regularity, then you know that Tim and I are both huge Kevin Smith fans. Put simply, Clerks kick-started a life-long obsession with movies and turned it into a desire to pursue it as my career.

For the first time ever, I connected with a filmmaker on a personal level and felt that he was communicating directly with me as the audience member. The fact that we are roughly the same age with about the same type of life experiences only lends credence to the fact that when I watch a Kevin Smith movie, I feel like I'm watching part of my life reflect back to me from the silver screen.

So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I entered the local cinema on Friday night knowing that Cop Out was the first movie that Kev directed that he didn't also write. Not to mention, that it easily his most advertised movie to date (thanks to new studio bed mate Warner Bros.).

The early returns weren't looking promising as I got to my seat about 10 minutes before show time and I was literally the 15th member of the audience. My concern for the financial success of the film took another hit when, ironically, a rent-a-cop actually booted two underage patrons who were trying to see the R rated flick. Really? They actually enforce those age restrictions? Who knew?

The lights dimmed and the movie started. Well, to be fair the 30 minutes of previews, commercials and annoying quasi-celebs trying to be funny with rote jokes started, but I'll fast forward to the good parts.

Almost immediately you can tell the little nuances that Smith has brought to the table. When the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep til Brooklyn" blares out of the speakers, I can't help but think back to a similar set up at the start of Chasing Amy. If there's one thing about his movies in which Kevin doesn't get enough credit for, it's his musical cues and song choices.

And Cop Out is no different. In fact, Smith coaxes 1980s synth king Harold Faltermeyer out of "retirement" to lend to his homage (pronounced properly, unlike Tracy Morgan's character from the movie who insists on pronouncing the hard H) to '80s buddy cop movies. Faltermeyer's score is a timeless piece that softens the edge of the movie and really sets the tone and pace of the movie.

Bruce Willis and Morgan shine as the aforementioned buddy cops in an almost reverse Lethal Weapon setup, but the real scene stealer in the flick is Seann William Scott. He brings a nice "tripod of balance" to the two main leads and to further the Lethal Weapon comparison, he is this movie's Joe Pesci all the way down to his bad guy who helps the cops in the end motif.

From a story standpoint, this is where the movie feels the least like a Kevin Smith movie. Written by Marc and Robb Cullen, the original screenplay A Couple of Dicks could easily be confused with an original work by Smith, but there are interesting deviations that are apparent from a signature Smith piece.

I would say that the most un-Smith part of the screenplay is the restraint in using foul language. Now, don't get me wrong, there is plenty of trademark Smith vulgarity, but one scene in particular when the characters purposely substitute non-vulgar alternatives for expletives for the sake of a child being present is the type of restraint that Smith would forgo, instead choosing to get the laughs out of the extreme cursing in front of the child.

In fact, there is one scene in particular with a pint-sized car thief that demonstrates how Smith would handle such an encounter. Also, the movie, despite closing in on two hours (which is long for a normal comedy), is cut pretty lean and tight. Missing are the usual one or two Smith tangents that he sometimes writes into his movies that, while containing some of the more hilarious parts of the movie, do very little to move the plot forward.

While some scenes could have benefited from a tighter cutting, it's clear that all of the scenes are integral to the overall story. My only complaint in this department is that while ample time is spent throughout the movie, the one scene that gets the tightest cut is the climatic scene at the end. I would've sat through another 10 minutes of the movie to allow Smith to build the tension more in these final moments.

I will caution you that if you're one of those people who bolt for the exit the very second the first credit hits the scene, wait it out for 20 seconds or so. Again, as was the case in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, the biggest laughs are buried in the credits. But fret not, the scene in question comes up after like the second credit and is very important to the movie as a whole, especially if they are positioning Cop Out to become a franchise of sorts.

Speaking of this scene (and again, if you haven't seen the movie, I'm going to try and be as unspoilerish as I can here, but you might want to come back after you've seen it), Smith yet again avoids the cinematic trap that he almost fell into with the original ending of Clerks. I know that as the screen went to black the first time, I had a great sense of despair that they had killed the Cop Out series before it even had a shot to become a series.

So, having not read the original screenplay, I'm left wondering if that final scene was in the script as written by the Cullens or if Smith had crafted that scene as his own personal homage to himself and his foresight to change the original ending of Clerks. Given the way the movie flows, it's probably the former, but there's a part of me that hopes that it is Smith having a bit of a laugh at his own expense.

Either way, that last scene redeemed the movie and has left me wanting more adventures with these two unlikely partners. I only hope that Cop Out does a decent amount of business and we can realize the sequels that almost assuredly someone has started thinking about in Hollywood.