Just 11 minutes into Cop Out, Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan's shambolic, middle-aged police duo are ordered to hand over their badges and guns, after receiving a month's suspension without pay. But guess what? They don't let that stop them from going after the bad guys.
Despite starring a perennial action hero and a former Saturday Night Live comedian in the lead roles, Cop Out isn't witty enough to be an effective spoof of Hollywood cop movies, nor is it sufficiently well-executed to work as a direct homage. Instead, it takes a recognised framework and adds a heavy layer of juvenile humour and some offbeat comedy performances - with, however, surprisingly enjoyable results.
It sees Jimmy (Willis) and Paul (Morgan) - partners for nine years in the gang-ridden streets of Brooklyn - suspended for bungling an arrest and thwarting an ongoing police investigation. As well as being mocked by colleagues, Jimmy needs money to pay for his daughter's wedding - or face the shame of allowing his ex-wife's gloating new husband to foot the bill. He plans to raise the cash by selling a valuable baseball card - but just as he hands over the item in a collectables store, the outlet is robbed. With his hapless and almost constantly drooling (literally) partner, he is forced to enter the world of the city's Latino gangs to retrieve the card and preserve his honour.
This means coercing wise-cracking petty criminals by handcuffing them to his car, recovering a stolen vehicle from an 11-year-old thief and babysitting the beautiful widow of a murdered drug lord - all the while avoiding the watchful eyes of his police department bosses. Directed by Kevin Smith, Cop Out is a departure for the filmmaker in a number of ways. After he emerged in the 1990s with the indie gems Clerks and Chasing Amy, he spent the next decade making a succession of duds - including the infamously poor Bennifer team-up, Jersey Girl. This is not only Smith's debut movie for a major studio, but also the first film he has directed but not written.
Although rarely lauded for his visual prowess, Smith manages to pull off some surprisingly stylish scenes and gives the movie a strong sense of pace. The film's unrelentingly coarse dialogue wasn't penned by the director, but some of its funniest moments (such as those between Morgan and a petty thief played by Seann William Scott) are the parts in which Smith has encouraged the actors to improvise.
Most of the jokes are beyond puerile and it often feels odd to see leading man Willis engage in such a base form of comedy - but thankfully, that doesn't stop much of the movie from being laugh-out-loud funny. It's a good thing too. While it's easy to chuckle along to Willis, Morgan and cameo appearances by a host of other comedians, the story is remarkably thin and easily forgotten.