Let’s Be Cops review
Let’s be a little lighter
The latest buddy cop comedy out of Hollywood doesn’t quite measure up to the hits (21 Jump Street and sequel, The Heat)of recent years coming from the specific genre, but still registers a few good laughs with its audience. Like all decent comedies, the key to laughter lies in cast chemistry and that certainly boosts the enjoyment of director Luke Greenfield’s (The Girl Next Door, Something Borrowed) newest feature. Up-and-comers Jake Johnson (Safety Not Guaranteed, 21 Jump Street) and Damon Wayans Jr. (The Other Guys, Someone Marry Barry) best-known for their work on “New Girl” lead the movie as the titular fake cops. Memorable performances from their extensive supporting cast help Let’s Be Cops into an entertaining method of killing an hour and a half despite one supporting performance that seems like it’s in a completely different picture.
Let’s Be Cops gets off to a rocky start because it’s difficult rooting for the leads. Johnson’s character, Ryan, plays a former college football quarterback who wasted his shot at professional football. Ryan spends his present pathetically living off a check from the herpes commercial he booked years ago and showing off his former football glory to middle school students. Wayans’ character, Justin, spends his days getting metaphorically stomped on by his boss and coworkers at a video game development company. Justin and Ryan begin the film desperately looking for a break from their normal, depressing routine when the opportunity to wear a costume arrives. The buddies agree to dress as cops for a masquerade party, get mistaken for cops after a poignant evening with former classmates, then decide to publically masquerade as law enforcement in a skewed, misinformed effort to lift their self-esteem. Needless to say, they mess with the wrong guys and a plot develops around corrupt cops and the Russian mob. Their chemistry shines and adds to the enjoyment of the film. The characters care about each other and the audience eventually learns to follow suit. Hiring two leads that see each other every day on the set of the same series certainly proved the best option.
Nina Dobrev (“The Vampire Diaries”, The Perks of Being a Wallflower)plays the love interest to Wayans’ Justin. Thankfully, her role isn’t limited to cute waitress as her character has aspirations of becoming a Hollywood make-up artist which hilariously come in to play with Wayans going undercover. Dobrev hasn’t appeared in many comedic ventures, but holds her own in a cast filled with comedy talent. She never really gets her moment to make the audience laugh, so if there’s a “straight” character, it would be Dobrev’s Josie.
The leads carry the picture ably enough, but the supporting cast provides most of the laughs. Comedy heavyweights Rob Riggle (The Hangover, 21 Jump Street) Keegan-Michael Key (“Key and Peele,” “Fargo”) and Natasha Leggero (Neighbors, He’s Just Not That Into You) provide constant laughs with their screen presence. While Johnson and Wayans are affable, funny buddies, Key, Leggero, and Riggle save the movie from becoming a movie reliant on gallows humor. Oscar-nominee Andy Garcia (Ocean’s Eleven, The Godfather: Part III) pops in to add some class to the film, but not much else. The veteran performer brings his signature smoldering intensity to his role of a corrupt cop, becoming a parody of the characters he often plays in films. Garcia shows up merely to demonstrate just how dire the situation is with the concept of his previous roles in mind. We know it’s serious because there’s Andy Garcia looking intense and nearly whispering.
There’s one noticeable hiccup with Let’s Be Cops: actor James D’Arcy (Cloud Atlas¸ Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) as the villain. D’Arcy’s antagonist comes off as a villain from a completely different movie, genre, narrative, etc. Every story needs conflict for some sort of situation to erupt and make a path for plot. Let’s Be Cops chooses to have our buddy cops fall in with the Russian mob, led by D’Arcy’s intense, psychotic, murderous Rossi. He’s a killer straight out of a Leone western or DePalma mob flick. Simply put, D’Arcy’s performance is just too good for Let’s Be Cops. The actor clearly enjoyed getting into his role and becoming the on-screen psycho, but that kind of acting belongs in some sort of dramatic thriller. His screen presence sucks the laughter out of the viewing house—an undesirable effect in comedies.
In the wake of buddy cop comedy popularity resurgence, director Luke Greenfield submits yet another, less-memorable entry in the buddy cop genre. Despite solid leads and a dynamite supporting crew, an intense, terrifying villain enters the picture to ruin all of the fun. Perhaps Let’s Be Cops should have taken a note from 21 Jump Street and The Heat to go the lighter route with a funnier bad guy and giving the female lead more jokes.