"It's not stealing," NYPD detective Paul Hodges protests as he readies for his "performance" interrogating a suspect. "It's called homage."
Because he's played by comic Tracy Morgan (TV's 30 Rock), homage is mispronounced. Because the movie is Cop Out, the "homage" is to '80s cop movies — a fond remembrance of those jokey, bloody Beverly Hills Cop/Lethal Weapon romps of Eddie and Mel.
And because the movie was directed (although not written) by fanboy Kevin Smith, Paul's "homage" rant to a suspect is snippets of movie dialogue — from An Officer and a Gentleman, Die Hard, In the Heat of the Night, Star Wars.
Cop Out is a cop buddy picture that reminds us what awful eye-rollers those movies often were. It has the generic "foreign" villains (Mexicans, this time), the chatterbox "perp" who is arrested and then comes along for the ride (Seann William Scott steals the movie in the Joe Pesci role). It has '80s action icon Bruce Willis, as Detective Jimmy Monroe, playing straight man to an always over-the-top Morgan.
But poor plotting, inept staging and slack pacing remind us that Smith (Clerks) is better at riffs than at making functional, wholly realized films.
Willis and Morgan play semi- competent detectives who botch a stakeout, get an informant killed and become mixed up in a plot that involves a stolen Mercedes, a stolen baseball card and a baseball fanatic bad guy (Guillermo Diaz).
Scott is a parkour- practicing burglar who steals a rare card from Jimmy. The cop needs the cash from it so he — and not the ex-wife's second husband (Smith film alumnus Jason Lee, dialing it down) — can pay for his daughter's wedding. So they chase the thief and shoot up the Mexican mob, even though they're both "suspended."
Funny bits interrupt the dead stretches — a hysterical and heavily armed woman protecting her property while questioning the manhood of New York's finest, Scott playing the "stop repeating what I say" game and an 11-year-old car thief who curses a blue streak but fears his mamma. As in the rest of the Smith canon, there's a juvenile fascination with sex — a monologue about monkey sexual practices, for instance.
But there's a dated and played feel to much of this, from the "Black Betty" to Beastie Boys soundtrack, the jokes that don't land, and situations and generic characters (Kevin Pollack plays a rival detective) that add nothing to the film.
Cop Out is funnier than Eddie Murphy's dreadful later cop pictures. But it feels like an homage to a period best forgotten, just a chance for all involved to sell out and cash in with a crude comedy that reminds us how bad these particular "good old days" were.