Tracy Morgan fans will get a kick out of 'Cop Out'

Posted: Thursday, March 04, 2010

H owever you feel about the action-comedy-buddy-cop genre (think "Lethal Weapon," "Rush Hour"), you have to admit the on-paper mix of "Cop Out" is intriguing. Kevin Smith, who when he isn't being kicked off planes for being too fat (that happened) is busy writing the scripts he eventually shoots, directs from someone else's screenplay. Not counting "Dogma," which had some action, it is also a completely new type of movie for Smith. He loves dialogue and lots of characters.

"Cop Out" has lots of neither.

On paper, you throw in Bruce Willis as a cop and that seems natural; go ahead, try to name less than five movies where Willis played a cop. For his partner, though ... Tracy Morgan? Excuse me? The first time I got wind of "Cop Out" I was intrigued. Then I was worried. With my well documented man-crush on Willis, it dawned on me that co-starring with an actor who is clearly insane (Morgan) could potentially be embarrassing for my guy. This is John McClane, for crying out loud! OK, technically, this is Jimmy Monroe, the name of Willis' NYPD detective in "Cop Out."

The seasoned Willis paired with the unpredictable, potentially hilarious, potentially annoying Morgan. It could work. It could be a train wreck. On paper, the ingredients in "Cop Out" are intriguing. On screen? Call it a mixed bag, but with laughs throughout.

Smith opens with a hip, bass heavy soundtrack and a slow-motion shot of Monroe (Willis) and his partner, Paul Hodges (Morgan) walking side by side through their precinct. Willis sports his trademark self-amused half smirk; Morgan sports his standard half-cute, half-unstable expression. There is no doubt. These are the heroes of "Cop Out." The mood is set. Smith makes is clear from the start he's not taking anything too seriously.

That first shot is immediately followed by Hodges and Monroe interrogating a suspect. Monroe begrudgingly agrees to let Hodges do the interrogation on his own, even though he's fairly certain Hodges will probably just find ways to reference all his favorite movies. That, of course, is exactly what Hodges does. The suspect grows more and more confused, and Monroe grows more and more amused on the other side of the glass. They go so far as to have Hodges reference McClane from "Die Hard," followed by Monroe saying to himself, "I never saw that movie."

This is "Cop Out." It's an action-comedy, sure. It's also Kevin Smith in charge. So it has more light heartedness to it than, say, "Lethal Weapon." For the most part, Smith lets Willis act fairly normal and simply react to Morgan who is, well, Morgan. His Hodges is a slightly tamer, slightly saner version of the character he plays on NBC's "30 Rock" (Tracy Jordan).

For the most part, this setup works. Morgan is funny and Willis is game as his partner. Seann William Scott shows up as a goofy, harmless thief they use to get information; he steals every scene he is in. The script, written by Mark and Robb Cullen, is formulaic from start to finish. The rival detectives for Willis and Moran to banter with (Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody) are there. So is the scene when our heroes are forced to give up their badges and guns thanks to some big-time screw up. There's nothing new here.

Except Morgan.

He made me laugh. He made the New York audience I saw "Cop Out" with laugh to the point where there was a satisfied round of applause afterward.

If you think Morgan's an idiot, though - an unfunny idiot - then you might be clapping out of spite at the end.

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