Let’s Be Cops Review – Bullets, Badges, & Bromances


Director: Luke Greenfield

Writers: Luke Greenfield, Nicholas Thomas

Stars: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans, Jr., Nina Dobrev, Rob Riggle


Release Date: August 27th, 2014

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Country: USA

Running time: 104 minutes


 

3/5

Best part: Johnson and Wayans, Jr.’s chemistry.

Worst part: The banal gross-out gags.

Over a short period, TV  has surpassed film as the go-to form of entertainment. With A-listers including Kevin Spacey and Matthew McConaughey jumping ship, the small screen is developing increasingly more ambitious projects featuring our favourite performers. So, who are the actors jumping from TV to film? Nowadays, this responsibility rests with sitcom stars of varying ages and talents. With Let’s Be Cops, two New Girl leads hurriedly leaped formats. Despite the movie’s flaws, their involvement saves it from being wholly mediocre.

Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans, Jr. leaving their New Girl comrades behind.

Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans, Jr. leaving their New Girl comrades behind.

Obviously, Director Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door) didn’t have to do much to win over New Girl fans or buddy-cop aficionados. Sadly, despite the cast and crew’s hard work, Let’s Be Cops might be overshadowed by recent real-life atrocities. With the Ferguson, Missouri issue concerning the US Government, varying authoritative bodies, and the country’s citizens, this movie’s outlandish premise comes off as tasteless and desperate. With news media calling America’s police practices into question, this action-comedy’s tactless approach may rub some groups the wrong way. So, should we blame this production for trying to have fun? The cast and crew, completing everything before this atrocity took place, deserve a fair assessment. So, with that in mind, does this buddy-cop farce stand up to scrutiny? Definitive answer: yes and no. Unsurprisingly, the story never delves past the title. Former football hopeful Ryan O’Malley (Jake Johnson) and submissive video game designer Justin Miller (Damon Wayans, Jr.) are unsuccessful, thirty-something man-children struggling to face reality. Bafflingly, after an embarrassing college reunion mishap, their elaborate police costumes are far more convincing than expected. Strutting through LA, the immediate acclaim gives them a blissful adrenaline rush. Convinced of this newfound ‘life purpose’, Ryan, ignoring Justin’s concerns, becomes addicted to the gun and badge. Buying a patrol vehicle off eBay, Ryan continually pulls Justin into trouble.

Nina Dobrev as Josie.

Nina Dobrev as Josie.

From the first patrol scene onward, several disturbing plot elements distort Let’s Be Cops’ light-hearted narrative. Obviously, Ryan and Justin’s actions serve to abuse police power. In fact, impersonating a police officer offers up significant prison time and fines. Therefore, with said penalties on the line, the narrative needed to be interesting enough to distract the average filmgoer from reality. Sadly, despite being an enjoyable buddy-actioner, these plot gripes hover above the audience throughout its 102-minute run-time. The story relies on two opposing viewpoints to keep the comedy and drama in line. From the get-go, the odd-couple relationship is hammered across our heads. With Ryan’s oppressive attitude clashing with Justin’s do-gooder personality, this central relationship brings up major questions. In addition, as it transitions from intriguing dramedy to goofy buddy-cop flick, their back-and-fourths become tiresome and dumbfounding. Though Johnson’s character is given suitable, albeit disastrously idiotic, motivations, Wayans, Jr.’s role becomes a series of alliance switches and reluctant decisions. Despite Justin’s desire to become a stronger person, the movie makes him the butt of almost every joke. Failing to get his video game idea, ‘Patrolman’, off the ground, the movie’s mean-streak occasionally weights down this breezy, laugh-fuelled romp. Despite this inconsistent bromance, Johnson and Wayans, jr.’s snappy New Girl dynamic boosts this simplistic venture.

“I feel like Danny Glover before he got too old for this sh*t.” (Justin Miller (Damon Wayans, Jr.), Let’s Be Cops).

Keenan Michael Key without Jordan Peele.

Keegan-Michael Key without Jordan Peele.

Despite the exhaustive improv. sequences, Johnson and Wayans, jr. enliven their stock-standard characters. In this and Safety Not Guaranteed, Johnson proves himself an adventurous and efficient leading man. Conquering the slacker archetype, his likeable presence rescues his conventional character arc. In addition, Wayans, Jr. – stepping out of his family’s shadow – delivers enough charisma and levity when required. Along the way, his comic timing and slapstick gags deliver several laugh-out-loud moments. Meanwhile, Rob Riggle delivers some worthwhile jabs as an enthusiastic yet gullible lawman. Undoubtedly, Let’s Be Cops was designed specifically for our two sitcom-bred stars. Sadly, thanks to hit-and-miss humour, the movie becomes a 21/22 Jump Street rip-off. Despite the potential, its gross-out gags merely degrade certain action beats. The underlying cop-mobster storyline – revolving around Russian mob boss Massi Kasic(James D’Arcy)’s threats against cute waitress Josie (Nina Dobrev) – never sparks any excitement. In fact, this sub-plot exists simply to deliver action, Andy Garcia in another villain role, and D’Arcy’s convincing Ethan Hawke impersonation. Shifting around this sub-plot, the movie’s half-processed skits reek of desperation. Some scenes – featuring our leads strutting into nightclubs, flirting with drunk chicks, and forcing innocent people into uncomfortable situations – add nothing to the story.

Let’s Be Cops – despite the lazy premise and production’s laid-back attitude – overcame several obstacles before hitting the box office. Hindered by a major socio-political scandal, a poor release date, and a derivative marketing campaign (seriously, the image of police partners screaming has been used a million times!), it’s a miracle this buddy-cop flick is even watchable. In addition, Johnson and Wayans, jr. deliver more big laughs than expected. Thanks to their flawless dynamic, these two pull off the uniforms with ease.

Verdict: A charming yet lazy action-comedy.

Safety Not Guaranteed Review – Time Travel Unravel


Director: Colin Trevorrow

Writer: Derek Connolly 

Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni


Release date: December 26th, 2012

Distributor: FilmDistrict

Country: USA

Running time: 86 minutes


 

4/5

Best part: The chemistry between Plaza and Duplass.

Worst part: Awkward moments of sketch comedy.

Time travel is a vital element of science-fiction. Time travel films like Looper became major hits last year and ignited heated debates on the subject. In the wake of this blockbuster fare, Safety Not Guaranteed hit the film festival circuit. This indie-dramedy is a sure fire winner, illustrating that low-key sci-fi should strive for recognition. It’s a sweet and inventive look at strange people toying with even stranger possibilities.

Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson & Karan Soni.

Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson & Karan Soni.

Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) is a lonely, unenthusiastic college graduate trying anything to get through each day. Failing to qualify for employment at a bar & grill, Darius is heavily and unhealthily reliant on her internship at a local magazine. However, life takes a turn when her boss Jeff (Jake Johnson) responds to an advertisement in a local newspaper. It reads “Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. PO Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.” Darius, Jeff and naive intern Arnau (Karan Soni) investigate the source of this unusual message. Their road trip takes them to a small seaside town, where the message’s author Kenneth (Mark Duplass) resides. Darius and Kenneth become acquainted and their eerily similar personalities draw them together. Safety Not Guaranteed excels at blatant honesty. The well written script, by first-time feature writer Derek Connolly, bases its humour on life’s inevitable restraints.

Mark Duplass.

Mark Duplass.

Safety Not Guaranteed’s weird subject matter may throw some people off, but human interaction is the main focus here. It not simply about how these conflicting personalities clash but how the world responds to the character’s perplexing desires. This quirky drama willingly balances between witty comedy and tragedy. Director Colin Trevorrow’s début feature is a profound journey into the heart and mind. His grounded direction makes this surreal story of time travel, regret and redemption easier to comprehend. Sparky dialogue, unadulterated humour and kinetic montages create a touching love story with a distinct independent film-making style. However, the film switches at points from intimate dramedy to awkward situational comedy. Despite Kenneth’s detachment from the community, his peculiar, and at points criminal, actions uncomfortably stand out in this heart-warming tale. This dynamic ensemble of cynical, immature and sarcastic characters provides an undying sense of charm. The characters are hauntingly real. They see the forest through the trees as their grasp on reality crumbles before their eyes. Fresh out of college, Darius is a rebellious and sardonic individual. The film’s opening scenes depict her solemn exile from the rest of her peers. Normally an unshakeably pessimistic lead character would divert the heart-warming story, but here her attitude is part of the bigger picture. Kenneth is both extremely paranoid and overly confident. Both traits somehow seem necessary for a character this deep into his own startling fantasy. 

“The mission has been updated. I’m going back for you now. All right. Do you trust me?” (Kenneth (Mark Duplass), Safety Not Guaranteed).

Plaza & Duplass.

Plaza & Duplass.

Similarly to Liberal Arts, a controversial relationship is softened by instant chemistry. Slowly building to an imaginatively silly goal, their relationship is enjoyable to watch. Their journey begins with an energetic interrogation. Darius’ intuitive reporter side clashes with Kenneth’s paranoia. They tussle with conflicting emotions and an Andy Warhol-esque assortment of Campbell’s Soup Cans. The horny yet charismatic Jeff and the hilariously shy Arnau complete this diverse cast of characters. Jeff’s reconnection with old girlfriend Liz (Jenica Bergere) is touching in certain scenes yet fails to connect with the story’s core themes. The film is grounded by naturalistic performances from prominent TV actors. Plaza (Parks and Recreation) is arguably the queen of dead pan comedy. She uses her snarky persona to illustrate her character’s misanthropic detachment from the world. Duplass (The League, Your Sister’s Sister) portrays Kenneth with his usual on-screen quirkiness. Kenneth is a tough nut to crack for this group of budding journalists. Is he insane, stupid, or in fact the world’s next scientific genius? Duplass’ Mumblecore roots energise his enigmatic yet sympathetic performance. Darius and Kenneth’s unusual personalities create a shaky yet sentimental relationship. They both have profound reasons for escaping the present. Their heartache pushes them to the edge as their promising relationship builds.

While Safety Not Guaranteed lacks the thrills of big-budget sci-fi, its heart is in the right place. The film poses the question “what would you do if you could go back in time?”, but never abruptly pushes the idea upon its audience.

Verdict: A clever and heartening sci-fi dramedy.