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The Independent Critic

Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Seann William Scott, Jason Lee
Kevin Smith
Robb Cullen, Marc Cullen
Rated R
110 Mins.
Warner Brothers

 "Cop Out" Review 
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Director Kevin Smith (Clerks) may not fit in the seat of a Southwest Airlines jet, but he damn sure fits inside the director's chair of Cop Out, Smith's first true "big budget" flick and the first film that Smith has not also written. In many ways, Cop Out is vintage Smith with its slicker than cool music video moments and successful intertwining of sincerity with vulgarity, a loyal buddy flick with a surprising degree of reverence for films that most of us would agree don't exactly deserve it.

It's the Kevin Smith we, his cult following, know and love.

Will a wider audience love THIS Kevin Smith?

Well, casting Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan wasn't exactly a bad move in the overall scheme of things.

The plot of Cop Out is mostly irrelevant, an unabashed buddy flick and opportunity for underrated funnyman Tracy Morgan to truly cut loose and the opportunity for the beloved Bruce Willis to let go of his 60-year-old action hero roles and return to something a tad bit entertaining.

Cop Out feels like a flashback to early Robin Williams or Eddie Murphy films, films where the maniacal stand-up comics were allowed to improv away and go completely psychotic in the search for comic genius while their co-stars primarily serve as the gatekeeper to a comedy wonderland. In Cop Out, Bruce Willis is the gatekeeper and Tracy Morgan clearly relishes the chance to go bold and blue and much, much farther than would ever be allowed on network television.

Morgan, whose work on 30 Rock has always been a tad underestimated, is a delight here even with an abundance of material that actually falls quite flat in between Morgan's moments of laugh out loud humor. In the film, Morgan and Willis play New York City police detectives who've been partners for nine years. The very loose plot involves the two detectives being suspended following a botched bust, Willis's daughter getting engaged, a baseball card owned by Willis that falls into the wrong hands and, well, it simply doesn't matter, does it?

What matters is "Does Cop Out entertain?"

For the most part, the answer is affirmative.

While Smith still isn't quite the master of anything resembling a true story arc, Cop Out is a nice opportunity for the director to grow with a healthy mix of true "story" with Smith's trademark buddy riffing.

When Cop Out primarily focuses on the relationship between the two detectives, the film largely works. It's when Smith and the film's co-writing team of Robb and Marc Cullen toss in a variety of other characters including Willis's daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg), a stoner memorabilia store robber (Seann William Scott), rival cops (Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody) and a baseball-obsessed gangster (Guillermo Diaz) that Cop Out gets overwhelmed, less entertaining, less funny and clunky for chunks at a time.

The 110 minute run time of Cop Out could easily be trimmed by a good 20 minutes without losing any of the film's sincerity, charm, humor and entertainment value. The additional 20 minutes feels unnecessary and only dilutes the film's overall impact.

Just Robin Williams and, to a greater degree Jim Carrey, could sell a completely sincere moment smack dab in the midst of lunacy, so too Tracy Morgan transcends his comic free-for-all with genuine scenes that also flash back to those delightful moments in which Steve Martin could simultaneously appear to be a complete moron and someone you just wanted to hug in The Jerk.

While it's doubtful that Cop Out will be fully embraced by Smith's legion of fans, it's a definite sign of directorial growth for the director who has built a career and a modest entertainment empire by celebrating the everyman in everyone. It seems inevitable that the modest budget for Cop Out, estimated at $30 million, will lead to a comfortable profit and future directing gigs for the director who had to work to get Weinstein Co. to fork over $5 million for his Clerks II.

So, rest easy Southwest Airlines, after Cop Out Kevin Smith may not need your low-budget, lower customer service airline anymore.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic