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Cop Out: Cops And Robbers Without the Chuckles
Cop Out is a film smart enough to point out the absurdities of the buddy cop genre, but lazy enough to use them nonetheless. Satire is hard to pull off; and for it to work, the film itself must be legitimate. Last year’s Zombieland is a great example of a film that got it right. Rehashing genre clichés for 90 minutes and expecting people to pay for it is a creative, ahem, cop-out.
Originally titled A Couple of Dicks, the film starts off with Jimmy Monroe (Willis) and his partner in crime Paul Hodges (Morgan); two cops working for the NYPD who just sabotaged months of undercover work for the whole department. Subsequently, they’re both suspended without pay from the police force. Monroe’s daughter’s wedding is next month, and his paycheck cut has left him with no other choice but to sell his collectors’ baseball card to pay for the wedding. Things take a turn for the worse when the card gets stolen and sold to the very drug lord that the NYPD has been investigating. With the help of Hodges, Monroe must retrieve the card to salvage his financial crisis and solve the investigation while he’s at it.
Willis and Morgan have the comedic chops, but the sum of their talent is lesser than its parts. They have no rapport, and both seem to be sleepwalking through the film. Willis may have defined the cop genre but he doesn’t seem at all thrilled to be mocking the legacy that he has helped build. Morgan plays it safe and relies on his 30 Rock shtick where he cartoonishly shouts his line; which doesn’t really help when the one-liners lack the zing and punch of his sharply witty TV sitcom. William Scott is in the film for a mere blink, yet he is the only one who shines. His two scenes are the only sources of good laughs in the whole film. If only we got to spend more time with him.
It seems like an odd choice for Smith to be sitting at the director’s chair. He built his career around very personal, albeit somewhat silly films that mine their humour from unblemished sources. Like Morgan, he also has been struggling with his place in Hollywood as a cult figure and has been gunning for a crossover. 2008’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno seemed like a sure shot but it turned out to be underwhelming. Here, he completely abandons his nerdish roots and shamelessly goes for the lowest common denominator. Unfortunately for him, it also doesn’t work.
You’ll enjoy Cop Out’s jokes, the influx of pop-culture references, and the sense of validation you’ll get when every scene unfolds exactly the way you thought it would; and for that alone it’s worth your time. Sadly, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch Willis parody his own cop film legacy could have been made into a better film.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
As an exploration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the military, Dito Montiel’s Man Down is a muddled story that’s pretty challenging to sit through. Though on paper there’s plenty of potential depth in this particular effect of war – and a solid cast at its disposable – the film descends into military-movie clichés, while not really keeping up with its complex set-up.
The movie to take place over four separate time periods and opens with U.S Marine Gabriel Drummer (LeBeouf) and his military buddy, Devin Roberts (Courtney), making their way through a vast and seemingly wasted American landscape which appears to have been destroyed by a chemical attack. On the look-out for survivors, the pair is hoping to find Drummer’s son, Jonathan (Shotwell), whom he believes has been kidnapped.
Before the audience gets a chance to find out what is really going in, the story flashes back to another time period where a seemingly distraught Drummer is being interviewed by Counselor Peyton (Oldman) about an ‘incident’ that occurred on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Moving on to yet to another period, we also get to see the story of Drummer and Roberts during their Marine Corps training at Camp Lejeune before, eventually, cutting to the story of Drummer’s life at home with wife, Natalie (Mara) and their son.
Taking on several narrative threads without really knowing where to take them, let alone how to put them back together, is one of Man Down’s major issues. Used to give some kind of visual interpretation of PTSD, the movie’s choppy editing is ineffective and comes across as a messy, superficial tool.
Clocking in at precisely ninety minutes, Man Down is a relatively short film but, thanks to the overworked script and slow pace, it takes forever for any of the stories to build into something bigger.
Working its way through a series of military clichés, the story works best when it is focused on digging into Drummer’s fractured mind, with the conversation between him and his counsellor – played by the seemingly wasted talent of one Gary Oldman – serving to be one of the movie’s best elements. LeBeouf is convincing as a troubled soldier desperately trying not to sink deeper into madness and his commitment to the role is commendable, making it all that more frustrating to see that the script itself is so lacking.