The hit or miss Joe Carnahan hits big
Copshop is exactly the kind of movie we say we never get anymore. It’s not based on a pre-existing IP. It banks on star power and the strength of its ensemble cast. It’s unapologetically R-rated and aimed squarely at adults. It was almost certainly made on a “medium” budget.
And yet. Here it is. Copshop — in all its glory. And audiences are all the better for it.
The biggest draw here for me personally is star Frank Grillo. As an action cinema junkie I’ll follow Grillo just about anywhere and have done so for many years now. And as such, that means I will also frequently take in Joe Carnahan films as well, as they’re business and creative partners through their WarParty Films production company. It’s been a pretty great collaboration between these guys, yielding such hits as The Grey, Wheelman, Boss Level, and now Copshop, among others. Carnahan is a hit or miss writer/director for my taste, but his partnership with Grillo has been fruitful. Of course, Gerard Butler is likely the biggest star among Copshop’s gifted ensemble, and the right Butler vehicle has also been known to get my ass in a theater seat. But as the old saying goes, come for the Grillo and Butler, stay for the Louder.
Yes, Copshop is very much an ensemble genre-defier giving room for the cast to shine bright and have a blast with the twisty, sharp, and relentless script from Kurt McCloud and Carnahan (and a “story by” credit for Mark Williams). But for all the great and memorable performances (beyond the 3 leads Toby Huss’ unhinged/chatty contract killer Anthony Lamb brings a unique energy to proceedings), and for all the household names with the biggest floating heads on the poster, this is Alexis Louder’s star making performance and she handily commands the audience’s attention.
Grillo’s sleazy-suited and man-bunned fixer on the run Teddy Muretto is in some deep trouble with some very bad people, so he assaults Louder’s Detective Valerie Young simply in order to get locked up and buy some time to escape ole Gerry Butler’s hitman character Bob Viddick. But two can play that game and soon Viddick and Muretto are locked in cells just across the block from one another with Detective Young astutely beginning to piece together the larger situation at hand. One minute a comedy, the next a siege film, the next a twisty thriller, and the next an Agatha Christie-like mystery, Copshop somehow deftly navigates all these potential genre and tonal shifts to create a really surprising and engaging single location barnburer.
Muretto, Viddick, and Young are the core characters on a hundred mile an hour collision course with one another, but when hitmen, dirty cops, and innocents all start descending on our isolated desert police station, and shifting alliances, forced team ups, and shocking revelations start piling up, our writers seem to be having a blast wringing every last drop of juice they can out of their game cast of ensemble players.
Copshop, against all odds, winds up being one of this year’s most entertaining crime/action films. It likely isn’t for everyone as the monologues can be a little stagey, the F-bombs come more by the second than the minute, and it all feels very highly orchestrated. But I found it to be a chaotic symphony that results when you plop a few well-written and convincingly performed (not to mention highly volatile) characters right into the middle of a single-night, single-location setting and let things play out within those limitations.
And so while it won’t win any Oscars, Copshop stands out by being pretty damn good at everything it is trying to do (and it’s trying to do a lot). When it goes for gore, it’s gnarly. When it goes the extra mile to show-not-tell a little character trait or nuance, it pays off and deepens our understanding of our characters. When gunfights pop off, a hint of John Woo stylings emerge. When it kids around, the jokes largely land. And when Alexis Louder is on screen… you pay attention. It’s a jack-of-all-trades kind of movie that just really executes well on its premise, so very satisfyingly so.
And I’m Out.
Copshop hits theaters September 17th, 2021 from Open Road