Let’s Be Cops
Review by Daniel Rester
Let’s Be Cops is that rare modern comedy that favors star chemistry and an original premise over dick jokes and other raunchiness. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its share of crude jokes and vulgarity. It does. But here is a film that gains a lot of laughs on the likability of the stars and their expert timing.
The idea is simple and ridiculous, yet it has some intelligence and charm behind it. Ryan (Jake Johnson) is a former football star and Justin (Damon Wayans, Jr.) is an aspiring videogame developer. The two are roommates, and both are struggling to make lives for themselves in Los Angeles.
After going to a costume party in some of Justin’s videogame-influenced cop uniforms, the two buddies realize that average people actually believe that they are police officers. Ryan decides to play this for what it’s worth, dragging Justin along for the ride. Things get out of control as the two get involved with real police matters, one of which involves a dangerous criminal named Porter (James D’Arcy).
Cops has a main through line that disappoints, with the story becoming predictable and piling on some clichés. The formulaic stuff includes a jerk boss (Jon Lajoie), a love interest who is in danger (Nina Dobrev), a good cop who shows the guys the right way to do things (Rob Riggle), and an ending where everything miraculously works out in peoples’ lives even though only one thing was really done. A few running gags also get old, including one involving a meth-head costume.
Basic issues aside, Cops is a fun comedic time. The constant over-the-top ideas of the two main characters get a surprising amount of mileage. The little moments and outer edges are the things that work best here. Such things as making drug dealers dance, fake-cocking guns, etc. are good for some silly laughs. One dialogue exchange about the clichés of stakeouts is also a standout.
Writer Nicholas Thomas and writer-director Luke Greenfield do a good job at delivering with such things. They also know how to make us root for sweet people who make awful decisions; Greenfield did a similar thing with his underrated film The Girl Next Door (2004). The dialogue the two writers came up with is clever at times, yet not many of the lines are memorable.
What is memorable is the chemistry between Johnson and Wayans. The two are dynamite together and we believe that their characters are great friends. The small looks and back-and-forth wordplay between the two hit a lot of the time. Riggle (less over-the-top than usual) also gets in some good comedic punches, and Andy Garcia and Keegen-Michael Kay show up and add some flavor to the shenanigans.
Cops shouldn’t work as well as it does. The concept and actors succeed, the story development not so much. I wish things would have been a bit more surprising towards the finish, but oh well. I laughed quite a bit and the movie didn’t try to gross me out every five minutes. That counts for something in my book.
Score: 3 out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: B).
MPAA Rating: R (for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity, violence, and drug use).
Runtime: 1 hour and 44 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: August 13th, 2014.