Cop Out (2010)

I'm not sure how the title of Cop Out actually refers to the movie, except that there are cops in it, and said cops are on the outs with their chief after they screw up a major drug investigation or something. But that's not really what "cop out" means, unless you're being punny, and then it still isn't what it means. But  whatever. Cop Out is this: it is the first major studio movie by filmmaker Kevin Smith, and the first time Smoth has directed a picture he didn't write. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Kevin Smith's movies, but I can accept that they fill a niche that is otherwise mostly empty: movies about potty-mouthed young people who mostly talk about sex and stuff that would titillate an 11 year old, and which often star Ben Affleck. Cop Out does not star Ben Affleck, but it does star Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis. Morgan's character talks about sex, and his toilet habits, and likes to riff on movies. He also gets into a bruising fight with a foul-mouthed 11 year old car thief, which is really no way to treat the movie's key demographic.

Paul (Morgan) is half of a buddy cop duo; Willis's Jimmy is the other half. Paul is the goofy half. He thinks his wife (Rashida Jones) is cheating on him. Jimmy is the weary half. In *Lethal Weapon*, Jimmy would be the Danny Glover character, the one who always says he's too old for this stuff (although he doesn't say it in exactly those words). That would make Paul the Mel Gibson character: the mentally unstable live wire who does wacky, unpredictable things. And if Cop Out were Lethal Weapon... for one thing, it would be better. It's more like Lethal Weapon 4, in which we're all pretty tired of these buddy cops, and they're tired of each other too.

As Cop Out begins, we learn that Paul and Jimmy have been partners for nine years. In short order, they are suspended without pay and forced to turn in their badges and guns. Never mind that they use badges and guns throughout the rest of the movie, when they try to redeem themselves by busting up a vicious Mexican drug cartel. But that's just one of many plots in this overworked movie, written by Robb and Mark Cullen. Jimmy has a valuable baseball card, which he needs to sell to finance his daughter's expensive wedding, so that his ex-wife's new husband doesn't pay for it. The card is stolen by a goofy thief named Dave (Seann William Scott), who trades it to drug lord Poh Boy (Guillermo Diaz). Poh Boy, remarkably, is not only an avid baseball memorabilia collector, but he's also the brutal kingpin of the drug cartel that is being investigated by the police department. That's the investigation that Paul and Jimmy disrupt during a botched stakeout of something or other. It doesn't really matter. The point is, Paul and Jimmy want the baseball card back, and a whole bunch of other stuff happens while they try to retrieve it.

Meanwhile, they talk a lot. Talking a lot is something characters in a Kevin Smith movie do a lot, and Cop Out is no different. Most of the talking is done by Paul, who natters on about many things in that odd baby-voiced way that Tracy Morgan talks on *30 Rock*. His character in Cop Out is more or less the same as his character on *30 Rock*, which might just be the way Tracy Morgan is. The key difference is that in Cop Out, he has a gun, and a patient sidekick in Jimmy. Cop Out is a regular blabbathon, and it is one of the movie's saving graces that it is, because there are regular collisions of crude and pointless dialogue that is much enlivened by vivid, high-speed delivery and the way that nobody in the movie ever seems to care at all what anyone else says. The dialogue isn't especially funny, but the characters just keep yammering away in their own annoying little orbits, and that's okay because Cop Out doesn't have much else going for it.

Smith has never been what you might call a competent director, but in his smart alecky, seat-of-the-pants way, he has managed to keep making movies anyway. Cop Out is well above his pay grade, despite the interracial buddy cop movie one of the most played-out, predictable and reliable genres of movie. Smith doesn't do anything new or original with this one, and he's not much of an action director. Cop Out is serviceable, unsurprising, and good-natured, but not, however hard it tries, offensive. That makes it, all in all, pretty forgettable.