Directorially challenged Kevin Smith ventures outside his comfort zone by opening Cop Out with an actual aerial shot. After that horizon-expanding gesture, however, it’s back to the usual ineptness for the former indie wunderkind, whose first for-hire gig is a meandering, sloppy hodgepodge of gags strung together by a narrative beset by superfluous subplots. Smith’s apparent contribution to the material (written by Robb and Mark Cullen) is haphazardly using a synth score, songs by the Beastie Boys and Poison, and random slow-mo shots to cast his slapdash lark as an homage to ‘80s buddy cop actioners, an objective—already tired, in light of Hot Fuzz and Pineapple Express—further hammered home by faux-Axel Foley Themes and Tracy Morgan opening the proceedings by over-pronouncing the “h” in “homage.”
Morgan is the crazy fool yang to Bruce Willis’s bland officer ying in the film, the two forming a generic mismatched interracial pair—though race conspicuously plays no part in this saga pitting cops against Mexican drug lords—that mainly reaps dividends when Morgan is allowed to seize the spotlight and freely riff on whatever a given scene demands. That vacillates wildly throughout, since the story involves, among other things, the wedding of Willis’s daughter, a rare baseball card, a flash drive hidden in a crucifix, and a surveillance camera hidden inside a teddy bear. This variety of scenarios provides ample opportunities for humor, yet most are lazily wasted, as cameos are milked for nothing (why did Fred Armisen and Jason Lee even bother showing up?), bits are prolonged past their breaking point, and Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody’s rival detective duo make one pine for the Grim Reaper’s comforting embrace.
Morgan gets his handful of choice one-liners (like casually identifying a criminal’s use of parkour), but the film only finds a rhythm when he’s teamed with Seann William Scott, who brings a similar brand of high-on-goofiness energy as a thief with a penchant for copying what those around him are saying and tormenting Morgan’s jealous cop with foul adultery imagery. Their ridiculously mental dynamic is invigorated, especially when contrasted with the action’s otherwise slack, drab nature, here embodied by Willis. Sporting a shiny shaved head and a variety of short-sleeve button-downs, the Die Hard star sleepwalks through shootouts and patiently sits in the frame’s corner while others attempt funniness, his performance’s lethargy so extreme that ultimately, the only thing seemingly more bored than Willis himself is his wardrobe.