Directed By Joe Carnahan
Starring – Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo, Toby Huss
The Plot – Screaming through the Nevada desert in a bullet-ridden Crown Vic, wily con artist Teddy Murretto (Grillo) hatches a desperate plan to hide out from lethal hitman Bob Viddick (Butler): He sucker-punches rookie officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) to get himself arrested and locked up in a small-town police station. But jail can’t protect Murretto for long. Viddick schemes his own way into detention, biding his time in a nearby cell until he can complete his mission. When the arrival of a competing assassin (Huss) ignites all-out mayhem, mounting threats force Viddick to get creative if he wants to finish the job and escape the explosive situation.
Rated R for strong/bloody violence, and pervasive adult language
– Return to form. After promising features like “Smokin Aces” and “The Grey”, Carnahan has been mostly quiet from the cinematic spectrum over the last decade, but with the addition of “Copshop” under his belt, he seems to have sparked the flame once more to his creative inspiration. Because of such, this feels like a companion piece to something like “Smokin Aces”, in that it constructs an ensemble effort under one roof with many combustible elements influencing the dynamics and atmosphere within a survive the night narrative. Carnahan instills no shortage of unpredictability, using red herrings and various plot twists as the nourishing appetizer to a satisfying main course within the riveting climax, all the while simmering the sizzle with a consistency for underlining twisted humor that only articulates the intensity within these psychopathic presences. It’s a good film on its own merits, but above all else a fun one, making for one of the easier 100 minute sits that I’ve had in quite sometime, and a fitting homecoming for a fearless director who is just as dangerous behind the lens as the killers in front of it.
– Group effort. In this being an ensemble piece, it requires all hands on deck from its talented cast, and I’m happy to say that each of them rises to the occasion in dramatically different ways. For Grillo, he very much disappears into the role with a campy wig and ensuing cowardice that is unlike anything we’ve previously seen from Frank without sacrificing the pulse of his presence, which feels just as prominent as ever. For Butler, he’s once again supplanting a dangerous figure with an ax to grind, but as Viddick, Gerard channels occasional vibes of Anton Chigurh, which definitely didn’t go unnoticed, making him the bearer of inevitability that often pokes and prods before he plays his devastating hand. Alexis Louder also more than holds her own within this boys night of chaotic carnage, gravitating enough confidence and cool in a demeanor that could’ve easily fallen by the wayside, but instead harnesses a badass leading lady with a badge, who nearly steals the show from a barrage of big name combatants. I say nearly because Toby Huss supplants what is easily my single favorite performance from the decades-acclaimed actor, as a subtle psychopath whose charismatic deliveries do more than enough to continuously chew the scenery, making this a fatal four-way in which we hate to see any of them go.
– Flare without fizz. Much of the action and ensuing set pieces emit a constantly gripping naturalism to their captivity, despite Carnahan keeping experimentation firmly at bay throughout. This not only keeps aspects of production from overextending into the clarity in front of the lens, but also gives more admiration to elements of gunplay, which rattle with stirring intensity for the various occasions. The sound mixing here is particularly resonant, dispersing through a chorus of bullet shells and echoing chambers that truly articulate the elements within the environment, all pertaining to the various confrontations that each unanimously end with a stacking body count and redefining of the stakes. This certainly gives me confidence that Carnahan has been tasked with the overwhelming responsibility of remaking what I feel is the single greatest action film of all time, in “The Raid”, and cements “Copshop” with rampant intensity that doesn’t require stylistic fluff to sell its appeal.
– Unraveling exposition. The conveying of knowledge and information pertaining to various backstories within the characterization are carefully inserted at just the right times to infuse the dynamics with recharged meaning and unabashed focus. This does lead to occasional moments that are a bit long-winded and heavy-handed with regards to the past ties of Murretto and the mob that he deceived, but without that communication that initially set the motion of these movements in place, the story would be all the more clunky and faulty because of such, so it’s essential that it would happen at some time. As for everything else, I love that the police officers themselves serve as the eyes and ears for the audience, who are learning matters in the same vein that they are. This keeps us and the movie on the same page consistently throughout, keeping this from feeling dragging as a result of our advantageous knowledge, but also meandering if the characters knowledge surpassed our own.
– Candid dialogue. Believe me when I say that very few films this year approach their rating with the kind of accessibility and carelessness that Carnahan and fellow screenwriters Kurt McLeod and Mark Williams exert with vitriol. Considering this is a film in which the characters use vulgarity as an arsenal of personality to inflict sarcasm and threat to their counteractive contemporaries, it gives each of the engagements the kind of unabashed attention that absorb you in the many conversations and conflicts, and feels like early Tarantino for the way it slowly pulls you in to something with much deeper meaning than what was initially prescribed. This not only affords the kind of freedom to the aforementioned ensemble that keeps anything from truly feeling off topic, but it also distinguishes itself from literally anything else currently playing at the box office, enriching it as a pleasant throwback of action films of the 80’s with the technological enveloping of current day.
– Soulful score. Whether in the fiery registry of Curtis Mayfield, or technical tapestry of Lalo Schifrin, this is one grooving entity that offers a faithful callback to Blacksploitation films of the 70’s, without it feeling like a meandering gimmick in the context of the film. Instead, its subtleties enhance sequences where the essence of cool lends itself to many devastatingly dangerous characters, especially during the bookends of the movie, which begin and end with entirely different characters with winning hands. The music itself feels like it would be the polar opposite of anything pertaining to a siege shoot-em-up that serves as one of the many children to the legendary “Assault on Precinct 13”, but it coincides reflectively with everything taking shape in the foreground of the story, and stands as my single favorite element of the subdued production.
– Nagging conveniences. Sadly, even a film attaining as many naturalistic qualities within its narrative can’t escape the freefalls from logical inconsistencies. For the record, there are many littered casually throughout the integrity of this story, but the couple that I point to pertain the opening act, especially one such scene pertaining to a deviation within the rules that the film sets for itself. Early on, a cop mentions that intoxicated inmates have to be incarcerated separately from everyone else, yet in the very next scene we see that the drunk Viddick is not only taken to the exact same room where Teddy is, but he’s also sharing a cell with a fellow intoxicated inmate. In addition to this, the movie commits that time-honored trope, where a gun that you know only holds so many rounds is firing double that before its reloaded. This is more bothersome to someone like me, because I feel those instances of reloading are undervalued, especially when they enhance the vulnerability of a character fighting to catch up.
– Tone-deaf. Both of the elements inside of the zany variety of humor, as well as the brutality of action, cleansed my pallet accordingly for what was asked, but do an underwhelming job of mixing together and finding one collective voice throughout the insanity. This is where Carnahan the screenwriter bares a strong inferiority to Carnahan the director, as the script feels very much like a first version, with very few professionals on deck to tell him when to regress the comedy, in favor of a scene that should otherwise be dramatically palpable. On top of this, some of the attempts at humor through scenes of self-deprecating fashion deconstruct these imposing figures in such an unappealing way that momentarily takes away from their menace, and outlines the bigger struggle for dominance within the mind of Carnahan that occasionally gets the worse of him.
– Stretched finale. There was a point in the film about five minutes after the climactic shoot-out, that could’ve ended matters perfectly with what coincided, despite a few glaring tropes making their way into the conveniences of certain predicaments. That’s not the case, unfortunately, as the film drifts on for another five minutes, only to end us in the exact same spot it previously established only five minutes prior, all for what I interpret as sequel baiting for a movie that we will probably never see, regardless of how well this could possibly do at the box office. The ending itself is a bit open-ended, but fine enough for where it leaves particular characters, but it’s made all the more watered down with an additional sequence that promises more and delivers less. It burns away some of the momentum from a crisp ending that was the full circle realization of everything promised constantly throughout the film, but doesn’t quite know when to say enough is enough.
My Grade: 7/10 or B