Copshop, 2021, 107 mins, Amazon Prime
I’ll cut Joe Carnahan some slack, as I’ve enjoyed many of his films, like Narc (2002) and I adored his darkly meditative The Grey (2011), and even rather liked Boss Level (2020) -so much so that I’ve already watched it twice|- and there’s much to like in Copshop. Indeed, the film starts with such a brazen sense of attitude, using Lalo Schifrin’s theme from Magnum Force over its opening, that I dared think this might turn out to be great… but alas, it turns out its a bit of a dud, the use of that music just hinting at how much this film is an exercise of style over substance. Some people will love it, no doubt, but it just wasn’t for me, really.
Which is such a pity, because the film features a pretty great cast. Gerard Butler plays Gerard Butler as usual, but Frank Grillo is pretty great, demonstrating again that he surely deserves better projects. Alexis Louder is very good but the script is so preposterous regards her character she has an uphill battle (more of which below), but the star performance of the film is that of the great Toby Huss, largely a tv actor who was so good in the (probably largely forgotten) tv series Carnivale back in 2003/2005, and more recently Glow (2019)- here he plays a psychotic killer and he enlivens the film tremendously, indeed almost saves it.
Copshop is a largely derivative… well, okay, its Carnahan, so lets play nice- Copshop is an affectionate nod to 1970s thrillers and exploitation films, hence its use of the Magnum Force theme and 70s funk songs on its soundtrack. Its indebted to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, clearly, in its isolated police-station under siege, and it has a lot of mileage from that sense of 1970’s ‘cool’ that provides much of the fun of the film. Its the kind of film I’m quite inclined towards, but like so many thrillers and action films these days, it just doesn’t know when to stop. I’m not sure when it happens, but at some point it moves from being fun to being silly. Maybe its when Louder’s Valerie Young is bleeding out from a gunshot one minute, is strapped up the next, and then survives a brutal gunfight in spite of a shotgun blast to the chest (yo for Kevlar!), and after being quickly ‘fixed’ by paramedics steals their ambulance to go chase after Gerard Butler’s assassin as if she’s fresh as a daisy.
Okay, okay, maybe it is just the daft fun of the film but the appeal of the 1970s films which this film so craves is that they felt grounded and real, even while they were cool- but films like Copshop just don’t know where to stop. Its like those excesses of Marvel films leak into every bloody film these days, and the days of genuine realistic human characters with natural physical limits are plain gone, and its spoiling so many films now, I’m no longer surprised anymore, I’m appalled.