Who’d have thought that in the same week I’d dislike a James Wan movie and like a Gerard Butler film? I’m no supporter of ol’ Gerry, but Copshop is an enjoyable B-movie action-comedy whoever you’re a fan (or not a fan) of. The plot of this picture goes something like this: On the run and trying to evade assassination, fixer and con artist Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo) punches rookie officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) to get himself arrested and locked up in a small-town police station. But when hitman Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler) fakes his way into detention by playing drunk, followed by the arrival of a competing assassin Anthony “Tony” Lamb (Toby Huss), a bullet-filled carnage ensues.
Written by Joe Carnahan and Kurt McLeod, and directed by Carnahan, this is a decently directed and written film. Joe’s filmography has quite a few misses; the director’s cut of The A-Team wasn’t as snappy as the cinematic version, Stretch was forgettable, and Boss Level was watchable but nothing special. Smokin’ Aces remains Carnahan’s best film (and please Joe, don’t remake The Raid, we don’t need a hollow Americanization of a perfect foreign film). When it comes to Copshop, this is one of Joe’s better offerings. Potentially a play due to it being almost set in one location like Sleuth or Death Trap, this movie clearly has aspirations of being mentioned alongside John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 but it isn’t as distinctive to be in the same league. That being said, this is a very watchable film that wants to be seen as a throwback or old-school movie. Opening with Lalo Schifrin’s theme from Magnum Force, Copshop has everything to do with nostalgia. Due to the over-production of superhero movies, this kind of stripped-down, action-thriller is a rarity in modern cinema, which is a shame. Not everything has to be part of a franchise or a big-budget blockbuster. Small-scale films are usually much more impressive.
In terms of cast; Frank Grillo, Alexis Louder, Gerard Butler, and Toby Huss are all perfect for each of their roles (in that order) and yet for some unknown reason, Butler’s name and face is front and centre on the poster. The plot starts by being more about Teddy and Valerie but by the time we get to the end, the focus shifts toward Bob making for an unexpected yet disappointing conclusion. SPOILER ALERT: I mean, didn’t Gerard Butler’s character get shot with a machine gun? How did he survive? Apart from the sequel-creating ending however, everything that precedes it is fun.
Whilst mentioning the actors, I have to mention Ryan O’Nan as Huber who gives a more subtler performance than everyone else who all seem to be in a heightened world. Gun Creek Police Department’s Sgt. Mitchell is almost a caricature of a high-ranking cop, in the same vein as the shouty Lt. Dekker in Last Action Hero. And every time there’s a film involving an insulin pump and an adrenaline shot, Jose Pablo Contillo appears in it 😉.
In terms of writing, the first fifteen or twenty minutes is used to give the viewer the lay of the land a la Die Hard or Snake Eyes. Knowing what’s located where in the police station makes the unfolding plot all the more entertaining for the viewer. There’s an almost pointless side-plot about the murder of Attorney General Fenton and some corrupt cops, and personally I feel the story would have been better if it focused on our main three or four characters with the backstory only mentioned in dialogue as opposed to flashbacks.
There’s a tense scene involving the changing of a door lock code with a digital readout cycling through “waiting…” as Tony gets ever closer to Valerie, but aside from that, there’s not that many thrills. For my liking, Copshop could also have been funnier. In addition, I could have done without Viddick saving Valerie, a worn-out idea of dames having to be rescued by a male hero (like a woman can’t take care of herself). Aside from this cliche however, it’s all good (although I don’t think there’s enough adrenaline in what looks like an Epipen to wake you up from a bleeding bullet wound).
Like other Frank Grillo films where he plays one of the main characters, Copshop is a very average yet somehow very entertaining film. This movie is reminiscent of a late-night, old-school, 80’s VHS rental. With a look and feel almost as old as Teddy Murretto’s flares, this is a no-nonsense, low-budget, entertaining action-comedy that does what it says on the tin. Hollywood should be making more of them.