Ever since Dogma, Kevin Smith's potty-mouthed indictment of the inherent absurdity of Catholicism, so enraged the faithful back in 1999, drawing stinging attacks from The Catholic League, the silent rotund one has been asked many times his stance on religion. His response is that he does indeed have faith, and for proof of the existence of God he needs to look no further than the existence of his own career. Humble though that might be he may not be far wrong. For sitting through Cop Out, an action comedy so inept, so incompetently put together, and so irredeemably bad, and realizing that Smith was paid money to direct it, is an experience so profound as to jolt the most hardliner atheists into reconsidering their position.

Matching Bruce Willis' grizzled hardass with Tracy Morgan's over-energized smartmouth as partnered detectives, it's clear that Smith, for the first time directing someone else's script, was aiming for something in the vein of 48 Hours. Tragically, the result is more akin to Cop and a Half, with Willis in for Burt Reynolds and Morgan in for the obnoxious ten-year-old. Make no mistake, Cop Out is a wretched disaster; a buddy movie with no spark, a comedy with no laughs, and a picture so lazily, haphazardly put together, devoid of any passion or imagination, you seriously have to consider if Smith wasn't perhaps working on his strongly-worded email to Southwest Airlines when he should have been giving his film one more pass in the editing suite.

Podgy and aging, Willis and Morgan fumble their way around looking less like two working police detectives and more like a pair of dads on their way to chaperone a school dance. From an apocalyptically unfunny opening that sees Morgan attempt to interrogate a suspect by bellowing lines from cop movies at him – a riff so bad Willis is forced to identify them one by one ("Now he's doing Al Pacino from Heat…) – things rapidly deteriorate, with the two mismatched leads generating all the chemistry of a First Grade science class tumbling through a threadbare plot with all the flow of tar sliding up a mountain.

Something about Willis staving off the embarrassment of having his ex-wife's new boyfriend (Smith regular Jason Lee) pay for their daughter's wedding by hocking a rare baseball card that winds up stolen by a violent drug dealer. The retrieval of said card is augmented by the secondary investigation as to whether or not Morgan's wife is cheating on him with their hunky neighbor, whose primary appeal seems to lie in him not being an insufferable manchild. Oh, and Sean William Scott is floating around, too, as an acrobatic housebreaker.

With Morgan permanently set to eleven and Willis somewhat boxed into the straight man role the film careers from playground smut gags to scenes of quite sadistic violence (as if Antoine Fuqua covered for Smith while he took a really long bathroom break or something) and back again with absolutely zero cohesion or cumulative effect. Cop Out lacks anything approaching a memorable scene, and is utterly without a single likable character. Pop culture references come thick and fast, ranging from the insipid ("What are you, Wikipedia?") to the incomprehensible ("I shit so hard the people next door are like 'Warriors, come out to play.'")

There are no discernable beats here, and Smith, who has not one clue about how to frame action, exerts no directoral authority whatsoever. Scenes just begin at random and continue unstructured until Morgan, who gives the performance of an undirected man, runs out of breath and/or ideas, whichever comes first. Willis, a man of many talents of which improv comedy is not one, struggles to keep up, and the whole thing just goes on and on, and louder, and more obnoxious, and even more convoluted, seemingly forever. Then it stops.

Cop Out gets half a star, and it only gets that by virtue of the fact that it does meet the technical definition of a film at its most basic level, in that you can run it through a projector and create the illusion of a moving picture on the flat surface in front of you. And that's being kind.

Starring: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Sean William Scott, Michelle Trachtenberg, Kevin Pollack
Director: Kevin Smith
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Rating: R

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