While Hollywood has continued to struggle trying to figure out just what to do with theatrical releases in the pandemic era, the one particular corner of the movie business that has seemed to be largely unaffected is the mid-tier action and horror genres. These tend to be features with original concepts, modest budgets, and names audiences know (but not necessarily the A-list). You can almost hear the studio deciding that a movie probably isn't going to be a massive hit in the best of times, so why not release it now? With Joe Carnahan's Copshop, there's little doubt such a decision was made.
Copshop reteams Carnahan with star Frank Grillo. We've seen this pair together before, but the output has run the gamut from the surprisingly good Boss Level, to the run of the mill buddy cop movie Point Blank. Unfortunately even with action movie veteran Gerard Butler along for the ride this time, Copshop is far closer to the latter effort.
Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo bring their names to Copshop and little else.
Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo) is on the run – from who it's not exactly clear at first, but he's clearly fearing for his life. He decides the best course of action to get to safety is to punch a cop, Valarie Young (Alexis Louder), square in the face. Getting himself arrested in the middle of nowhere Nevada seems like a smart move at first. However, hitman Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler) simply follows that lead and gets himself thrown in lock up with him in order to get close to Teddy so that he can fulfill his contract.
From the beginning it looks like Copshop could be setting us up for a wild ride. Viddick clearly has a plan when he gets himself arrested, and over the next several minutes we watch pieces get put into place. Sometimes those pieces are put into place in incredibly ham-fisted ways. An early interaction between Valarie and one of her fellow officers is such a blatant setup for something to come later it's impossible not to see it coming, even if it takes the entire rest of the movie for the payoff to finally come.
Even as a simple cinematic diversion Copshop is lacking.
And then, just when it looks like the Rube-Goldberg device is set and the first domino falls... nothing really happens. A status quo is maintained for about half of Copshop's runtime, and it simply isn't filled with enough story to keep audiences interested. None of the characters beyond our main three have any depth or any reason to get invested in them. Even the core cast members are little more than tropes for the most part. When you're offering an action movie with Frank Grillo and Gerard Butler, there's a certain expectation that comes with that, and when they spend 90% of a movie sitting in a cell that's lost.
Eventually, a new character, played by Toby Huss, has to arrive from outside in order to kick the action into full gear. Once that happens things at least get moving. The action isn't anything new or special, but it's there. But the introduction of Huss' character is whole new problem because he feels like he came in from a different Joe Carnahan movie. Up to this point Copshop has been about ratcheting up the tension until things are about to break, and there's little humor to be found – but Huss' character is a "psychopath," which means, apparently, that he has license to be ridiculous while everybody else is playing it straight.
Alexis Louder is the real breakout star.
Frank Grillo and Gerard Butler get first billing in Copshop, and while their conflict may be at the core of the film, it certainly isn't about them. It's about Valerie and how she's going to navigate the situation she's found herself in. Alexis Louder is certainly up to the task. She holds her own against the action veterans as the cop who, while not without her own skills, is certainly in over her head.
When the final act rolls around and sets up its "badass" finale, it ultimately falls flat. Butler and Grillo are finally given something to do, but because the movie hasn't done anything with them up to this point, there are no expectations for the movie to meet, exceed, or even subvert. It's just more gunfire, which is fine, I guess.
If Copshop were funnier it might have been worth a laugh. If the movie had action scenes that were something we'd never seen before, it would have been novel. If it had better built the tension so that the release of it made you feel something, it would have at least been satisfying. Instead it does all these things halfway, making them all mean very little.
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