Reality bites, as the saying goes, for 30-year-old underachievers, best friends and roommates Ryan and Justin.
Narcissistic slacker extraordinaire Ryan has been a refugee from reality since his nascent NFL quarterback career ended before it began (thanks to an injury sustained jumping off a roof at a party). His “job” these days? “Coaching” a group of youngsters in pick-up football games at the park. As for Justin, well, at least he has a real job as a video game designer. But his ideas are routinely ignored.
Both men are on the slow road to nowhere. And both have begun to wonder if it’s time to call it a day in L.A. and head back to their native Ohio.
Not before attending a big costume party with their fellow Los Angeles-area Purdue alumni, though! Ryan’s convinced ghost costumes are the way to go … until he spies two surprisingly realistic police uniforms Justin used to help him design a shoot-’em-up cop game.
The uniforms are so realistic, in fact, that after these two buddies leave the party, everyone they encounter thinks they’re real officers. So why not just go with it for an evening, Ryan suggests, just to see what it’s like: “Let’s be cops!”
So what is it like?
Well, for these two doofuses it seems like a lot of fun to wave your gun around and watch people duck. To have women spontaneously kiss you on the sidewalk. To plow recklessly through traffic in the dilapidated police cruiser they score on eBay. To attract the notice, in Justin’s case, of a pretty restaurant hostess named Josie who never gave him the time of day before.
Yeah, it’s a lot of fun being a fake cop, they think.
And Ryan doesn’t want to stop.
Until, that is, he pushes his fantasy fling as a police officer a step or 17 too far and tries to intimidate a gang of Russian drug and gun runners led by a ruthless psychopath known as Mossi.
Playtime’s over, boys! And very, very soon they may be in need of the services of a couple of guys who woke up that morning and said, “Let’s be undertakers!”
Whatever else these two buddy “cops” may be, Justin and Ryan are fiercely loyal friends. For much of the movie, each accepts the other’s glaring character flaws. But they also eventually challenge each other to do better. Justin tells Ryan he’s got to learn to take responsibility for his life and choices, and stop acting like a victim. “Life didn’t screw you,” he observes. “You screwed yourself. Take responsibility for once.” Ryan returns the favor by telling Justin to quit being such a passive, timid wallflower in his career and relationships.
In a voiceover near the end of the film, Justin tells us, “Life can get confusing, and you lose sight of the person you want to be.” And it’s friendship, we’re told, that helps us become the people we’re meant to be.
Justin, it turns out, has a slightly better grip on reality than Ryan does. After researching the legal penalties for impersonating an officer, he tries to talk Ryan out of their police shtick. And they actually do try to turn themselves in at a Los Angeles police station—only to end up deepening their relationship with a cop named Segars who, of course, thinks they really are civil servants.
Officer Segars, Justin and Ryan then work together to take down Mossi (as well as a corrupt police lieutenant) in an elaborate surveillance and sting operation, with each of the men putting himself in mortal jeopardy to save the others. When Segars finally realizes that Justin and Ryan are not, in fact, police officers, he immediately orders them to leave a dangerous shoot-out situation. Justin and Ryan begin to comply with that order, then realize that if they do, Segars will be killed—a realization that prompts them (for better or worse) to grab some of the Russians’ many guns and start shooting back.
The longer Ryan inhabits his newfound “officer” role, the more he realizes that it’s a good fit for him, career-wise. Putting the unwise and illegal choices he and Justin have made behind him, in the end he joins the police force for real.
Mossi wears a crucifix, and Segars characterizes him as “the devil’s nephew.” Someone repeatedly says “Thank God!” A murdered woman is said to be in heaven.
At the scene of a department store break-in, Justin is pursued by a morbidly obese and inexplicably naked man. Full-frontal nudity is shown, as well as a graphic image of the man’s genitalia from behind when he’s knocked out and falls on Justin’s face.
Josie takes her top off for Justin. (We see her bare back.) A woman wearing a cleavage-baring outfit tries to convince Ryan to have sex with her. Among other things, she does a flip that exposes her underwear, spreads her legs and presses her breasts (in a bra) up against a window. A group of women on a sidewalk spontaneously kiss Justin and Ryan. At a bar, women mistake the “officers” for strippers. Ryan obliges them and begins to remove his clothes, and a couple of aggressive women tell him that they want to have sex. There’s talk of having sex with “older” women, and Ryan passionately kisses an elderly lady. Ryan stars in a commercial for herpes medication.
Ryan and Justin keep ending up on top of each other, and dialogue surrounding their discomfort with those encounters is tinged with homosexual innuendo. Other verbal references to sex include mentions of oral sex, explicit sexts, cheating, arousal, etc.
Quite a few Russian goons are shot and killed in the lengthy standoff. (Bulletproof vests repeatedly save both Ryan and Justin at various times.) Several intense melees include body slams, slow-motion punches to the face, broken windows and wince-inducing falls. It’s said that Mossi’s infamous parties generally involve one-on-one fights in which combatants often die.
Ryan is strapped to a table while Mossi and a rogue cop hold up various implements with which they intend to torture him. Justin and Ryan put a bag over a man’s head, handcuff him, wrap him in plastic wrap and eventually put his head under a kitchen sink faucet, “waterboarding” him to get the information they want. Mossi threatens to kill Ryan’s parents.
Justin and Ryan are repeatedly slapped in the face. A kid accidentally stabs Ryan with a switchblade. Justin gets in the middle of a fierce catfight between two feuding young women and is repeated kicked in the crotch or has it grabbed and squeezed by the main combatants as they try to get at each other. As mentioned above, a very heavy and very naked man falls on him and pins him to the ground.
Ryan drives recklessly through traffic, on sidewalks and through a park. A skateboarder wipes out. Violent shooter video games are seen several times.
At least 40 f-words, some of which are paired with “mother.” Nearly 70 s-words. God’s name is abused half a dozen times (sometimes with “d–n”). Jesus’ name is misused once or twice. We hear more than 20 crude references to male and female genitalia, including “p—y,” “d–k, “balls” and “pr–k.” “B–ch” gets hurled into the melee 20 or more times. About 25 other vulgarities include “d–n,” “h—,” “a–” and “a–hole.” And it should be noted that quite a few of these words are uttered in front of middle school kids.
While posing as officers, Ryan and Justin take marijuana from a group of guys … and then toke on it themselves. Another scene shows their police cruiser so filled with pot smoke they can’t even be seen through the haze. Mossi forces Justin to smoke crystal meth through a glass pipe.
Characters drink wine and beer in bars and clubs and at parties. Ryan swigs from a bottle of bourbon.
Lies, lies and more lies. Beyond wearing the uniform, Ryan adorns the eBay cop car with official LAPD insignias and adds flashing lights as well (which Justin rightly tells him is very much against the law). But even Officer Segars ends up on the impersonators’ side, refusing to report them and ultimately (it’s implied) helping Ryan get into the police academy.
Ryan often invites a young boy named Joe to hang with them, repeatedly exposing the youngster to both physical danger and utterly inappropriate conversations that include obscenities and sexual references. The guys strike up a bizarre relationship with a Hispanic man named Pupa (pronounced poop-a). They kidnap him, then repeatedly mock his difficult-to-understand accent. Other racial jokes are made as well, many revolving around the fact that Justin (who’s black) has a badge with an Asian name (“Chang”).
On my way to the theater for a 10:00 p.m. showing of Let’s Be Cops the night before it officially opened, I wondered if I would be the only one there.
Boy, was I wrong.
The theater was nearly full, which astounded me. Why would this many people pay good, hard-earned money to see a warmed-over, flat, predictable—and predictably foul—buddy “cop” flick? The only answer I can conceive of is the apparently enduring appeal of the Wayans clan.
Damon Wayans made his big-screen debut way back in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. And a whole fistful of his siblings (10 altogether) have made careers out of show business. Now fast-forward three decades, and his son Damon Wayans Jr. is following in Dad’s footsteps after a decade of honing his acting chops on TV shows like The New Girl and Happy Endings.
But after suffering through 100-plus minutes of this obscenity-filled, innuendo-laced, gag-inducing and seriously unfunny comedy, let’s just say I’ll be even more surprised than I already was if anyone will be flocking to theaters to watch Damon Wayans III in a futuristic cop flick 30 years hence.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.