Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Luke Greenfield
Stars: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans jr, Nina Dobrev, Andy Garcia, Rob Riggle, James D’Arcy, Keegan Michael Key, Tom Mardirosian, Joshua Ormond, Jonathan Lajoie, Natasha Legerro.
Let’s Be Cops combines elements of the slacker comedy with the familiar formula of the odd couple cop buddy comedies, popularised through the likes of 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon, Midnight Run, Stakeout, Bad Boys, etc. It aims for a similar vibe that the recent 21 Jump Street and its sequel had, although it falls short of the achievements of those films. At least it is much better than some more recent examples of the genre such as the dire and lazy Bruce Willis vehicle Cop Out or the unfunny Ride Along. The main catch here is that neither of the main protagonists is actually a policeman, but a pair of underachieving thirtysomethings whose lives are at a bit of a dead end.
Ryan O’Malley (played by Jake Johnson from Safety Not Guaranteed and the tv sitcom New Girl, etc) is a former NFL star whose career was prematurely derailed, and since then he is something of a failure and his life has gone nowhere. His best friend and housemate is the uptight Justin (Damon Wayans jr) who works as a video game designer. His idea for an immersive first person shooter game centred around policemen is rejected by his preppy boss who prefers something involving zombies and lots of gore. They are stuck in a rut until they attend a college reunion costume party.
Ryan and Justin attend the party dressed in police uniforms, realistic props that Justin had used in his video game presentation. But they are further humiliated at the party when they realise how lame their lives are when it is pointed out that they haven’t grown up much since college. They leave the party only to find that women are attracted to the uniform. The pair quickly use the power and automatic respect granted the uniform to gain entry into the hottest night club and to confiscate recreational drugs for their own use.
But Ryan, who is crazier than the more cautious and conservative Justin, takes it even further by purchasing a used police car off ebay and begins abusing his power. But in pretending to be cops they soon run afoul of a gang of Russian thugs (apparently still the preferred villains du jour for Hollywood filmmakers) who are terrorising some local shopkeepers and amassing a stockpile of weapons in a warehouse. The leader of the mob is the fearsome Mossi (James D’Arcy), and Ryan and Justin soon find their lives in danger.
However, as they demonstrated in the first season of New Girl, Johnson and Wayans develop an easy going chemistry and rapport that lifts the material, and it would not be surprising to see them paired up again in another project in the near future. Johnson normally has an easygoing and laid back screen presence, but here he seems to be channelling some of the same aggression and slacker qualities of Seth Rogen, although he is nowhere near as obnoxious. Wayans is less over the top than his father.
Andy Garcia pops up in a small role, but his performance lends a bit of gravitas to those few scenes. Nina Dobrov (from The Vampire Diaries, etc) brings a touch of beauty to the film with her role as Josie, a potential love interest for Justin. Rob Riggle turns up as a cop, while Keegan Michael Key plays a stereotypical henchman, while in the film’s weirdest moment Natasha Leggero turns up in a strange, badly underwritten role as Annie, a sexually predatory woman who occupies the apartment from which Ryan and Justin conduct a stakeout operation.
Let’s Be Cops has been written by Nicholas Thomas and director Luke Greenfield (the Rob Schneider comedy The Animal, etc), and it liberally borrows from the playbook of the genre. Much of the material here feels familiar and predictable. The film is also tonally uneven as most of the laughs come in the first half, before it turns into a full on action comedy with medium level violence featuring gun play and fisticuffs galore. The climactic action scene is well handled even if it is cliched in its construction.
There are also some strong homoerotic undertones to the material, and much of the humour is sexist, racist, homophobic and misogynist in tone. And the film is just not that funny!