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edge staff writer


‘Copshop’ a violent and entertaining action throwback

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We all have our pop cultural comfort foods, the movies and music and books in which we delight even as we tacitly understand that they are not necessarily what others would deem great art. There’s a lot of stuff out there that might not capture the imagination of the majority, yet has an indelibly major impact on a select population.

Of course, “great” is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?

For instance, I’m not going to sit here and try and convince anyone that “Copshop,” the new film from grimy, crime-y writer/director Joe Carnahan, is great cinema. But I also can’t deny that I had a great time. It is a pulpy throwback of a movie, built on a foundation of ‘70s exploitation that will ring familiar to those who haunted certain aisles in their local video stores once upon a time.

And it is a hoot.

There’s something admirable about creative projects that are unabashedly themselves, and that’s the vibe you get from “Copshop.” The premise is ludicrous, the violence is over the top and characters are hard-boiled cartoons. But with everyone in on the joke, it stops being a joke – the people involved engage with just the right amount of seriousness, giving us a movie that is low-rent and ludicrous and legitimately entertaining.

“Copshop” wastes little time, dropping us into the exquisitely-named Gun Creek County, Nevada. We see a bullet-riddled Crown Vic careening through traffic; the car is abandoned at the roadside and a man takes off running into the night.

Meanwhile, a pair of police officers are called to a disturbance at a casino. Officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder, “The Tomorrow War”) is in the process of dealing with the situation when the aforementioned fleeing man runs through and sucker punches her. He is of course thoroughly tased and subsequently arrested.

Back at the police station, we learn that our mystery man’s name is Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo, “Boss Level”). He’s steadfast in his refusal to talk, even as Officer Young tries to get him to come clean. Far from looking to get out, Teddy seems almost happy to be in a cell.

When a pair of state troopers locate the abandoned Crown Vic, they call it in, only for a drunk driver to immediately sideswipe the vehicle and nearly kill him. The late hour means that they’ll head to the closest station – Gun Creek. They bring in the staggeringly drunk perpetrator – who is carrying no ID – and stick him in the drunk tank to be dealt with the morning.

Only it turns out that said drunk guy is actually hired assassin Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler, “Greenland”) – one of the dudes in pursuit of Teddy Murretto. See, as it turns out, Teddy is a bit of a fixer (though he hates the term), only he double-crossed and stole from the wrong people, turning himself into a target.

Valerie is in the middle of conflicting stories, trying to figure out who – if anyone – she can trust – when the situation is escalated exponentially by the presence of even more people who have an interest in taking Teddy out … and not all of them are coming from outside the building.

And then, hoo boy, we are off to the races. Chaos and mayhem ensue, with guns blazing and explosions and double- and triple-crosses galore.

Like I said – a hoot.

There’s an honesty at work in “Copshop” that is refreshing; this is a movie that never once deviates from what it promises to be. That’s kind of a hallmark of Carnahan’s oeuvre in general – he revels in down-and-dirty genre fare and delights in crafting work that suits his own aesthetic. Here, he’s leaning into the realm of bare-bones ‘70s action exploitation, with a narrative in perpetual forward motion. The story doesn’t necessarily hold together under any kind of scrutiny, but the thing moves so fast that you don’t really have time in the moment to worry about it. You’re just along for the ride.

There’s some strong action here – the various gunfights and whatnot are well-handled. Violence and blood are abundant throughout, crunchy and visceral. Carnahan embraces variety as well, running the gamut from up-close-and-personal to wide-ranging broad indifference. There’s an abruptness as well; Carnahan’s not interested in making you wait – when it’s go time, it’s go time.

But it’s the dialogue that gets us to that violence that really makes the difference, purple with cursewords and riddled with the sort of tough-guy bloviating that makes a great meal for the right kind of actor. There are some real laughs scattered throughout, lines treated with deadly seriousness that are nevertheless almost certainly intended to elicit a chuckle. The extremity of it all leads to some genuinely hilarious moments.

I’m not really sure how much range Frank Grillo has as an actor, but when he’s wrapped up in something like this, he’s great fun to watch. He’s wonderfully shady, practically glowing with scumbag energy – the charming sleaze that you might like but should never trust. And I’d be happy if Butler just made movies like this for the rest of his career; I found the effort to turn him into some kind of leading man to be misguided at best, but when he’s free to just do his thing in genre fare of this sort, he’s a good fit. Watching these guys gnaw on the scenery and try to out-tough each other is pretty fun. Ridiculous, but fun. And Louder might be better than both of them, serving as the grounding conduit through which their puffed-up criminality can be filtered. It’s a strong performance out of her in a role that could easily have been ineffective. We get a couple of good supporting turns as well – the underrated Toby Huss is clearly having a blast as an unhinged assassin.

This movie won’t be for everybody. Some might find it a little too violent or too exaggerated or just plain too much. But if you’re in the mood for some old-school B-movie action, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a film better suited to meet your needs.

“Copshop” isn’t a great movie, but it is definitely a great time.

[3.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 20 September 2021 10:51


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