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.

21 Jump Street Review – Charismatic Cops


Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

Writer: Michael Bacall

Stars: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Ice Cube


Release date: March 16th, 2012

Distributor: Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Country: USA

Running time: 109 minutes


 

4/5

Best part: Hill and Tatum’s chemistry.

Worst part: The bare-bones sub-plots.

The perfect mixture of old and new; 21 Jump Street smartly caters to different age demographics by gleefully commenting on our high school years. Whether 14 or 44, the issues and cliches of high school life are highlighted in a reflexive, relevant and witty fashion. This adaptation of the famous 80’s TV series also works through the electric chemistry of its two popular male leads.

Jonah Hill & Channing Tatum.

A flashback to high school in 2005 provides the basis for the issues of our two bumbling top cops. Schmit (Jonah Hill) is a nerd failing to find a girl for the prom, while Jenko (Channing Tatum) is an obnoxious yet stupid jock living the shallow life he loves. Years later, their bitter reunion comes with enrolment into the police academy. With Schmit an academic whiz and Jenko a lean, mean fighting machine; they work together to complete their police training and become the cops they desire to be. Their crazy, unprofessional antics however get them ousted from the force and transferred to an undercover division revived from the 80’s, down on 21 Jump Street. With an angry police chief breathing down their necks, they must go back to high school to find the supplier of a new synthetic drug sold by students before it spreads like a stupid Facebook message in the public sphere.

Ice Cube.

With an impressive writing, directing and production team under its belt, 21 Jump Street is a strong contender for this year’s funniest comedy. The direction by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs) provides a consistent level of funny gags while finding room for a sincere fish out of water story. The comedy may be hit and miss at points, but what works are the consistent comparisons to high school life between the 1980’s, 2005 and present day. With a slick 80’s edge due to its TV show origins, the film subverts and conforms to 80’s action film and TV clichés; finding a way to make them both entertaining for younger viewers and hilarious to anyone aware of cheesy 80’s conventions. Cameos from two members of the original show, including one of the most beloved and dynamic actors in the world, are handled in a surprisingly effective manner. Its no surprise the script was co-written by Michael Bacall, co-writer of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, as both films find a perfect relationship between believability, cultural relevance and insane fantasy. The stand out gag involving the many stages of tripping on hardcore drugs, provides several hilarious moments and the visual stimulus of ascending levels and pixelated colour patterns of an arcade video game. The screenplay also delivers when depicting the changing labyrinth and factions of present day high school.

“Hey, hey! Stop f*ckin’ with Korean Jesus. He ain’t got time for yo problems, he’s busy wit Korean sh*t!” (Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), 21 Jump Street).

Our cool characters.

Providing suitable groundwork for this story of opposition and adaptation on evolved high school turf, the crazy vision provided depicts a world of environmentally friendly and study hardened popular kids and one type of culturally and technologically advanced hipster after another. Adding immensely to 21 Jump Street’s stock standard story are the performances and characterisations from everyone involved. It’s Hill and Tatum who wholeheartedly commit on every level, not only producing the film but playing on what their own lives may have been like in high school before their current popularity. With Hill’s acting and co-writing talents consistently proving worthy of his recent Oscar nomination, his influence on modern comedy pays off as this re- invigoration of the odd couple relationship provides strong chemistry and believable friendship between Schmit and Jenko. Tatum on the other hand, proving himself to be a very unconvincing actor in previous roles, silences his critics with powerful and charismatic comedic delivery as the jock turned imaginary lightsaber fighting science nerd. The supporting cast also provides a large amount crazy thrills and fun gags. Rob Riggle and Ellie Kemper as wacky members of the faculty, Dave Franco (James’s brother) as the most popular kid in school and Brie Larson as the love interest all provide laugh out loud performances in their small roles. While Ice Cube is a comedic stand out as the Black police Chief strongly embracing his stereotype while encouraging the embrace of stereotypes in others.

Ultimately, the odds of making a truly successful 21 Jump Street adaptation are about one in a billion. However, in this universe, the odds have jumped up to two in seven billion. Our two shining stars make the most of this glorious opportunity and boost their once-ailing careers.

Verdict: A bold and hilarious action-comedy.