If there are ten 2010 movies that are worse than Cop Out I may have to rethink my career. How can anyone be expected to sit through ten movies worse than this utterly incompetent, painfully unfunny, ploddingly dull waste of time, money and life?

Early on in Cop Out it became abundantly clear that Kevin Smith’s buddy cop comedy – famously the first film he’s directed that he did not write – was not funny. Every joke fell dead, murdered either by unbearably terrible delivery or by Smith simply being unable to stage a single comedic exchange (which is really bizarre, since that’s essentially been his entire skillset until now), and I started to count the number of times I laughed. Note: the number of times I laughed with the movie, as opposed to at the movie, because I often found myself giggling at Smith’s impossibly flaccid editing and his bizarre use of slomo. The final laugh count? 11 times. That’s over the course of a 107 minute long movie, so I laughed once every 9.7 minutes.

Smith’s going for an 80s buddy cop homage, and in doing so allows you to see what 80s classics like 48 Hrs. or Midnight Run might have been like if Walter Hill or Martin Brest had no facility for comedy or character, were unable to shoot an action scene, couldn’t edit a movie to save their lives, and decided that cinematography was the least pressing aspect of movie making. Harold Faltermeyer’s goofy synth score certainly brings the 80s nostalgia to the forefront (as does Smith’s endlessly on the nose needle drop choices, most of which are from the 80s), but you should just buy the soundtrack and imagine the movie it’s for as opposed to subjecting yourself to this horror.

The problems with Cop Out start in almost the opening seconds. Smith lets us know that we’re in Brooklyn by playing the Beastie Boys’ No Sleep Til Brooklyn as his camera does a reveal of the two leads walking in slomo down a police station hallway. Watching the trailers and ads I assumed this was a mismatched partner movie – hard nosed Bruce Willis suddenly gets assigned goofball Tracy Morgan – but it turns out the movie expects us to believe these guys have been partners for nine years. There’s not a hint of chemistry between Willis and Morgan (in fact I would bet even money that Willis actively loathes his costar, judging by the glare in his eyes every time he is forced to look at Morgan) and they come across like two guys who first met about 90 seconds ago, on the first day of shooting. 

The opening scene horribleness continues: I know that these two have been partners for nine years because not only does Morgan give Willis an anniversary card (this moment contains a joke that was my first laugh of the movie! If only I knew there were but ten more remaining…), he says it again and again and again. Then Morgan goes to do an interrogation of a suspect, despite Willis saying why he is bad at it and how he will be bad at it. See, Morgan’s character is so wacky that he just uses movie lines in interrogations. But not just cop movie lines! He pulls them out of Star Wars and The Color Purple and a whole bunch more ‘crazily’ inappropriate movies. Don’t worry if you don’t get the references, as Smith keeps clumsily cutting to Bruce Willis as he names the movies being quoted (which leads to the first truly awful joke of the film – when Morgan does a Die Hard line, Willis says ‘I never saw that one.’ Groan, groan, groan). 

Later on when Morgan thinks his wife, played by Rashida Jones, is cheating on him, you understand why she would – he seems to be some kind of fucking retard. I get the comedic possibilities inherent with having the off the wall Morgan playing off the straight arrow Willis, but that scenario requires people to be aware that Morgan is absolutely nuts and/or mildly touched (see 30 Rock). Instead this movie pretends like Morgan’s just kind of eccentric or something, and then pretends that Willis can put up with it. Which is blown out of the water by Willis visibly not being able to put up with it. You wonder what sort of short bus version of affirmative action got this character a job where he could carry a gun.

The basic plot of Cop Out is bad. Within minutes of the opening scene (and following a poorly put together action scene), Willis and Morgan get one of those standard chewings out from the boss, and they have to hand in their badges and guns for a 30 day unpaid suspension. But this is a problem because Willis needs to pay for his daughter’s wedding and was counting on his paycheck (I’m not sure what NYPD makes in this day and age, but since the wedding was going to cost 48 thousand dollars I don’t think a month’s pay was actually going to help that much, rendering the entire ‘on suspension’ plot worthless. Except as a cute little nod to the cliches of the genre – something better films like Hot Fuzz would have been able to actually work into the story. Anyway); instead Willis goes to hock a very valuable baseball card he owns (you can tell Smith didn’t write this, as it would have been a hockey card in a legit Kevin Smith movie) and gets robbed of it. This somehow brings the two suspended cops into a situation with some appallingly caricatured Mexican gang bangers and there’s some woman in a trunk and there’s a drug kingpin and… I don’t know. It’s all just fucking padding anyway.

None of this would be a problem if any of the movie was funny. But it’s not. Willis doesn’t want to be there, Morgan is phoning in his exact same 30 Rock schtick, and Seann William Scott – in an extended cameo – is simply irritating. In his favor is the fact that his character is meant to be irritating to those around him, and he really gives it his all and makes his every moment of screen time an extended experiment in discovering just how much he can make you loathe him. Also not funny is Adam Brody, who seems to be playing this thing at a Disaster Movie level, and Kevin Pollak, who is given nothing to do and seemingly no jokes to deliver. And you can tell when a joke has been delivered in Cop Out as Smith usually leaves a moment of silence – either as respect for the humor he is butchering or because he somehow thinks somebody in the world will find this crap funny and laugh out loud. Pollak is criminally wasted here, mostly showing up in moments that give Smith something to cut away to. There’s a horrendous running gag about him being a boot fan, but the piss poor pay off to that one goes to Brody, anyway.

Out of all the tragic attempts at comedic performances in Cop Out, one truly stands head and shoulders above the rest. Guillermo Diaz, who has been on Weeds and Mercy, plays the head of the Mexican gang, who is called Po’boy for some reason. I guess he really like New Orleans food. Anyway, Diaz plays the character so broadly that I wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be a joke or not. I think there’s supposed to be some element of humor to the character, but mostly I think Smith has directed this poor actor to give a ridiculous performance because he thinks the character is a larger than life Tony Scott villain or something. Doesn’t work. It’s just jarring and awful and most of all pathetically stupid. 

These actors are trapped in a movie that doesn’t know what to do with them. Smith can’t cut together a scene, and so there’s no rhythm or feel to anything. David R. Ellis was the second unit director; traditionally second unit handles much of the action for directors like Smith, and Ellis has in the past proven to have an eye. But whether it’s that Ellis is just aping Smith’s flat, undynamic style or that Smith’s amateur editing (it’s probably a bit of both) the action is so uninspired as to barely qualify as action. At least if there were a couple of fun set pieces Cop Out could earn its keep, but there’s not a moment in this film worth sitting through.

Kevin Smith has reached the end of a road. He’s not a director, and Cop Out proves it conclusively. If he wants to keep directing movies he should stick with the little films about people talking, where his complete lack of talent behind the camera is less of a problem. Although maybe he shouldn’t even go back to that; all of the comedy and character stuff – the stuff that’s been good enough in previous Kevin Smith movies to forgive his sub-pedestrian filmmaking – is completely absent. It’s like Kevin Smith is devolving as an artist in front of our very eyes, losing even the talents that got him where he is today. It’s easy to forget that Clerks and Chasing Amy were important moments in indie film, and that Smith was honestly poised to take a big leap and do something interesting. He’s never made good on that promise, and in fact he’s gotten to the point where he appears to have no interest in doing well. Cop Out is the worst film Kevin Smith has ever made, and it’s one of the worst movies I have seen in a long, long time. It’s time that Kevin Smith reconsiders his day job.

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