What you get in “Copshop” is a gallows-humor-packed, abrasive, crime-thriller from director Joe Carnahan, a filmmaker who specializes in exploring America’s criminal underbelly in similar fashion to Guy Ritchie, who portrays British versions of the same milieu.
And as opposed to Carnahan’s 2002 ultra-gritty and very serious “Narc,” (starring Jason Patric and Ray Liotta) “Copshop’s” got enough Tarantino-esque humor to nudge it into B-movie and Grindhouse territory. It’s got a little bit of John Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13” and a fair amount of “Die Hard.”
One night at the Gun Creek Police Department—an oddly well-appointed and stylishly modern police station smack-dab in the middle of nowhere in the Nevada desert—some stuff happens.
But first, we meet the first of the four main characters, slippery con-artist and long-time mob fixer Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo rocking a man-bun, an early 70’s flared bell-bottom pimp suit, and a sweet pair of python-skin boots), roaring down a Nevada highway in a bullet-pocked, windows-smashed, engine-smoking, police Ford Crown Vic.
Teddy’s got a price on his head and is on the lam from various interested parties (a la “Midnight Run”), who’d love to get their hands on him. One of these is the renowned (in such circles), very efficient, ruthless hitman Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler). Here’s a piece of conversation when these two later meet, as I recall it: Teddy: “Is it true you once cut off a man’s arm and beat him to death with it?” Bob: “It was his leg.” You get the idea.
But you do not want this particular guy, Bob, after you. So in a dust-up at a casino, Teddy sucker-punches Valerie Young, a young female officer (Alexis Louder) to get himself thrown in the slammer. Safest place there is, right? The local police precinct jail?
Wrong. Bob Viddick pulls a similar stunt and now we’ve got a hitman and his prize, sitting in holding cells directly across from each other. And if that wasn’t a nutty enough situation, the level of crazy gets turned up a notch with the introduction of a third assassin, a psychopath named Anthony Lamb (Toby Huss), who visits the station posing as a balloon delivery guy and starts spraying bullets, causing Valerie to flail for safety and end up locking herself in the underground bullet-proof jail with Bob and Teddy.
So now you’ve got the ice-pack-toting deputy Valerie fielding heated requests from both assassins to release them (for her own safety of course) before the lunatic Lamb figures out a way to break in. She contemplates long and hard, trying to ascertain who’s the most psycho of these two snakes.
Now, while Anthony Lamb happens to have an old beef with Bob, he was sent there (by some mysterious outfit) to take out Teddy. He tells Bob (they know each other well) that he now goes by Tony and won’t answer to Anthony. As in, if someone were to say “Anthony,” Tony’d stick his fingers in his ears and go, “La-la-la-laaaa!”
It must be said, that while the three aforementioned actors bring the funny (and the movie overall actually belongs to Alexis Louder, although her two male colleagues get top billing, such is showbiz), this Tony Lamb is the most, if grossly, hilarious.
At one point, Tony shoots a precinct officer between the eyes, then sits at the station house’s front desk computer console in order to delete his profile. Low and behold, his mugshot on the computer screen has a streak of blood dripping from exactly between his image’s eyes. He turns to address the police officer’s corpse, saying words to the effect of, “No way! Are you kiddin’ me? C’mon now—is that your blood spatter? … shootin’ me in the face … where I just shot you in the face? What are the odds? You should play the lottery today. I should play the lottery today. Hmm … I hope there’s a Powerball around here. …”
Meanwhile Bob’s been disputing with Valerie about what a true psychopath is like (because she’s been accusing both of her earnest, angry charges of being psychopaths) and when they hear Tony outside chuckling, machine-gunning people, and pleasantly addressing all and sundry like he’s at a picnic, Bob comments to Valerie: “You see the difference? That’s a psychopath.”
Bringing up the rear are a bunch of clichés: the obligatory crooked cop, the blustering police chief, and so on. The Scottish Gerard Butler usually plays the hero; here he’s the (still likeable) villain. Frank Grillo generally plays tough good guys, like in Carnahan’s last film, the time-looper “Boss Level,” and the Beethoven-playing MMA coach in “Warrior,” and a police chief in “End of Watch.” However, he’s usually a baddie; in Copshop he’s a semi-likeable baddie. Above all, as mentioned, Alexis Louder has a break-out role here, as the female John McClane (“Die Hard”) who saves the day.
“Copshop” is quite fun if you’re a fan of quippy dialogue, overly dramatic, stylized, slo-mo shootouts, tons of shattering glass, tension-filled action, and actors who can pull off the deadpan humor and camp required of this genre.
Director: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo, Alexis Louder, Toby Huss, Ryan O’Nan
Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: Sept. 17, 2021
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars