(2010)2.5Cammila CollarWhen you hear that the 2010 buddy cop film Cop Out was directed by Kevin Smith, it frames the movie in a certain light. Certainly, you imagine, this must be a postmodern take on the genre -- a tribute or a parody, some kind of meta commentary on the B-movies that stoned Gen-Xers remember catching on cable throughout their youths. And to a certain extent, it is. The film opens with odd-couple NYPD partners Jimmy (Bruce Willis) and Paul (Tracy Morgan), interrogating a suspect almost exclusively through the marathon use of movie quotes, with a background conversation about the definition of the word "homage." So clearly, the tone is meant to be self-aware. The cheekiness also comes to the surface through a silly retro synth score, and a script full of every stock exchange, plot turn, and cliché in the book.
But the thing is, self-awareness isn't the same thing as irony, and outside the fact that Morgan actually quotes Die Hard to Willis in that initial dialogue, Cop Out isn't really an exercise in postmodernism. For the most part, it just follows the two heroes on your standard series of crime-comedy adventures as they go rogue following an unjust suspension for their wacky antics, and spend roughly an hour and a half tracking down a rare baseball card that's fallen into the hands of a Mexican drug kingpin. Willis squints, Morgan acts crazy, and Smith leaves his stamp on the whole thing with a greater-than-average number of dick jokes. In this sense, Cop Out is totally passable.
To contrast: When Quentin Tarantino says he's made a kung fu movie or a men-on-a-mission movie, you know that's not really true. You know that what he's really done is used those old films as a thematic jumping-off point to make an entirely distinct creative breed of movie -- one that places a ridiculously higher importance on artistic caliber than the fun-and-games fare he's name-dropping. Whereas, in Cop Out's case, things are much more transparent; this isn't a movie about crappy police comedies, it is a crappy police comedy -- ideally sandwiched in between Loose Cannons and Freebie and the Bean on a Sunday afternoon, when the viewer is high, and expectations are low.