Life is like baseball. Sometimes you hit. Sometimes you miss. And sometimes you tear your ACL coming ’round second.
New York City police officer Jimmy Monroe may not have torn anything, but he’s feeling the bumps and bruises of life more than a 40-year-old catcher. He and his partner, Paul, have been suspended after botching a drug bust. His daughter’s getting married, and he’s happy about that, but he’s sure it’ll cost more than the average government bailout.
Is he going to have to sell his prized, mint condition Andy Pafko baseball card to finance the festivities? Probably. That won’t fix his suspension issues or his partner’s goofy ineptitude, but at least he’ll be able to give his daughter the wedding she always dreamed of. Even if that wedding features dancing bears and The Beatles playing backup.
So Jimmy, with Pafko and Paul in tow, tramps off to the local hobby store to trade for a little coin. But before he can even get the thing appraised, Pafko is whisked away by a pair of thugs lacking mental wattage but loaded with physical voltage—in the form of fully charged tasers. Jimmy’s shocked—literally—to see his massive payday skedaddle out the door and head for home. And Paul, good old Paul, isn’t even guarding the plate.
Ouch. Did I just hear something pop?
Jimmy loves his daughter, and he wants to give her the wedding of her dreams. It’s the least he can do, he reasons, for having let her down so much in the past. But Jimmy’s most outstanding quality is his patience: How else can we explain the fact that he’s been partnered with Paul for nine years? When Paul messes up a drug bust and gets them both suspended, Jimmy shrugs it off. When Paul cluelessly allows baseball card thieves to walk into a store, rob it and escape, Jimmy barely says anything. And when Paul shoots a hole in the precious Pafko card, Jimmy simply shakes his head and smiles—as one might do if a precocious 3-year-old tried to flush a sock down the toilet.
Paul, despite his foibles, also has a strong point or two: He loves his wife, though he has a funny way of showing it. He’s reasonably considerate, giving Jimmy a card to commemorate their ninth anniversary together. And he’s comfortable with himself, not seeming to mind that he spends half the movie drooling on his shirt.
Poh Boy, Cop Out’s main bad guy, is an outwardly religious drug dealer. The first time we see him, he’s in an empty church, praying. He later walks around on the dais, talking to his brother about how he plans to grow the business. And then, when his henchmen drag someone who has displeased him into the church, he throws a handful of cash on the altar and quips, “Father, bless me, for I’m about to sin.” Poh Boy’s brother then shoots the guy in the head.
Poh Boy, by the way, has a flash drive made to look like a crucifix. And his brother dangles a large cross around his neck.
A pair of policemen find corpses that have had their tongues cut out—a telltale sign of a Mexican gang, one of the cops says: The killers remove the tongues so victims won’t be able to talk about their sins in the afterlife. Jimmy’s daughter’s wedding is presided over by a priest who recites verses from 1 Corinthians 13, including, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
It’s ironic that such a verse would find its way into this juvenile movie.
Paul worries that his wife is cheating on him. So he plants a camera (hidden inside a teddy bear) in his own bedroom to see what she’s up to while he’s away.
Sure enough, he (and we) see his wife in lingerie, helping an unknown bedroom visitor undress—an apparent prelude to a sexual encounter. We hear her say she’s going to “get a rubber.”
[Spoiler Warning] That interlude, as it turns out, is a reverse sting: Paul’s wife staged the moment with her “gay cousin” to teach Paul a lesson about jealousy. It should be noted, however, that she earlier invited a neighbor over to share a bottle of champagne with her while Paul’s gone. She insists nothing untoward went on.
Paul, for his part, resists what he thinks is an advance being made by a beautiful, exotic (to him) rescued kidnap victim named Gabriella, telling her that he’s married. Gabriella later plants a lingering good-bye kiss on him.
It’s suggested that a hotel night manager receives oral sex from a prostitute. When Jimmy draws a phallus on an observation window, the camera angle makes moviegoers think about the person on the other side being engaged in a sex act. Paul discusses the sexual predilections of Bonobo chimpanzees, adding that he’d like to watch. A bandit makes several jokes about Paul’s supposedly unfaithful wife in the most graphic of terms. Characters make vulgar references to male and female body parts.
Several villains are killed—most in a gunfight at the end of the film. We see the resulting bullet holes in one of the corpses. Both Paul and another police officer are shot. A gang member kills someone with an automatic weapon, blood spraying onto a wall. Someone else dies after crashing through the windshield of a car and hitting his head on a tombstone. And a third unlucky soul falls from a rooftop and hits his head on a ledge.
Poh Boy has several of his own men killed, execution-style. (The camera cuts away before the shots are fired.) He tortures a henchman by strapping him into a batting cage and belting baseballs into his body, leaving him bruised and bloodied. And he threatens to do the same to Gabriella, who gets locked in a car trunk for days.
Jimmy slaps Paul, falls down a flight of stairs and gets tasered. Paul smashes someone over the head with a baseball cleat, then shoots the resulting corpse several times. He hits a child in the groin (after the kid knees him in his), is attacked by a pit bull and helps Jimmy chain a criminal to the back of a car and drag him around a vacant lot.
“This is police brutality,” the bandit says as he’s being chained to the bumper.
“Not yet,” Jimmy answers with a smile.
The f-word is flung around close to 100 times. And when you account for the instances where the obscenity trails off, people flip each other off or characters say “effing” in the presence of children, the tally easily tops the triple digit mark. The s-word is uttered another 40 times, and other curses (“a‑‑,” “b‑‑ch” and “h‑‑‑,” to name a few) get significant screen time. God’s name is paired with “d‑‑n” a half-dozen times, and Jesus’ name is abused another 10. One of the film’s most foul-mouthed characters is an 11-year-old car thief.
A bandit confesses to Jimmy that he sold the Pafko card to buy drugs. We see characters holding scotch, rum, champagne and other alcoholic beverages. Paul brandishes an empty champagne bottle in front of his wife.
After Paul and Jimmy get suspended (and are forced to turn in their guns and badges), Paul gives Jimmy an extra gun and badge from a stash in his glove compartment. He says he keeps spares handy because he loses his so often. Jimmy and Paul both lie—a lot. They also agree to let the tweenage thief go free (that is, not tell his mother) if the kid gives them the information they need. Paul roughs up someone so he can take his bike and pursue a criminal. When he learns that a video of the incident has been posted on YouTube, he asks, “How many hits did I get?” Paul and Jimmy bail out a criminal so he can help them break into another criminal’s house.
A bandit uses the bathroom in the home of one of his victims, inspiring Paul (who’s watching from outside) to crudely and rudely riff about how disgusting bathroom breaks can be.
Ron, the new husband of Jimmy’s ex-wife, ends up paying for Jimmy’s daughter’s wedding. In return, Jimmy’s ex makes Jimmy promise to let Ron help Jimmy give her away. At the ceremony, when Ron begins to stand up, Paul pushes a gun into the man’s neck, forcing him to sit down again.
Cop Out is an extended homage (or, as Paul says, “hommage”) to the buddy-cop flicks of the 1980s, complete with the synth-heavy soundtrack and a myriad of period movie quotes. It’s amazing, really, that director Kevin Smith had enough self-restraint to hold the line on mullets. But while the film does have a couple of funny moments, it’s equally hard to believe that he, or anyone associated with this piece of work, could be particularly proud of it.
While still solidly R-rated (100 or so f-words will do that), it’s not as foul as some of Smith’s other work—most recently Zack and Miri Make a Porno. But that doesn’t mean it’s not bad.
Indeed, the best part about Cop Out is its title—reflecting, as it does, Smith’s apparent attitude toward it. Because this whole exercise feels like a cop-out—not a real movie at all, but two hours of Smith fulfilling a studio contract, actors collecting paychecks and a studio duping moviegoers into helping a handful of rich folks get that much richer.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.