Being an avid 30 Rock/Tracy Morgan fan, I was excited to see Cop Out. After convincing my friend that A Prophet didn’t sound interesting, and that anything with Tracy Morgan can’t be that bad, we went to Westwood to watch Kevin Smith’s latest. The theater wasn’t a quarter full…apparently everyone already got the message. I wish I had.
The very first scene spelled trouble. Tracy Morgan’s character, Paul, interrogates a witness while impersonating cop movies and any other movie he can come up with in a scene that is 10 impersonations too long. Adding to the overdone joke, Bruce Willis’s Jimmy names each film that Paul imitates except for Die Hard. Ha ha! Bruce Willis isn’t able to name a movie he was in! What a clever joke! Believe it or not, it’s all downhill from there.
What everyone, including myself, was hoping and praying for was a parody of cop films. A jab at all those bad 80’s and 90’s buddy cop movies. Instead we are given pastiche; the same drab story line in the form of a very poorly done homage. I had my suspicions from the trailer, but I thought Kevin Smith might be able to do something with what he was given. Kevin Smith doesn’t have a very distinctive visual style, so I thought he would focus on humor in order to make the film worth watching. Clearly he gave up or phoned in this movie in hopes that a studio will let him make one of his own pictures after this.
Tracy Morgan manages to give a decent performance, but without good writing, his shtick loses its impact pretty quickly. Not to mention that Bruce Willis fails as the straight man because he is (almost) as goofy as Tracy Morgan. It doesn't help that Paul and Jimmy do not have a conflict between themselves, a staple of buddy cop movies. They never have a fight and they never misread each others intentions even though there were ample moments for it.
The soundtrack was as confusing. It featured the worst hip-hop beats I have ever heard and again I wasn’t sure if it was making fun of 80’s hip-hop or imitating it as best it could. Then you have the quandary of Sean Williams Scott. From the preview, you get the idea that Scott, Willis and Morgan will form some kind of unlikely crime fighting team. No dice. Dave, Sean Williams Scott, steals a baseball card from Jimmy. Paul and Jimmy catch Dave and then he goes to jail. Quite a bit of plot passes before we see him again. Paul and Jimmy bail him out of jail to help them steal back the baseball card from the people he sold it to. Maybe there is a chance for hilarity you say? Nope. Dave tries to break into the house, slips, hits his head and dies. What the hell?! Why not have him taken hostage? Or knocked unconscious only to wake up at the crucial moment? Or any number of alternatives? Instead he dies…or does he? The credits roll, the film is over. And then we are in the morgue watching the coroner perform her duties. We hear Dave’s voice which beckons the coroner to open the bag. She obliges and Dave pops out of the bag! Great, he’s alive! Why? Or how? I don’t know.
There are a few funny moments that can be attributed to Tracy Morgan’s delivery and performance abilities. The only thing that might save the movie is 30 Rock. In the fictional Tracy Jordan’s dressing room, there has been a “Black Cop” movie poster on the wall since the show began. I would be willing to bet that Tina Fey and the other writers have enough sense of the absurd to make a joke about life imitating art or something. They’re smarter than me, I’m sure they’ll figure it out. Poor Tracy Morgan. Lets hope that Death at a Funeral is better (wink).