Release Date: 8/13/2014
Dir. Luke Greenfield
Starring: Jake Johnson (Ryan O’Malley), Damon Wayans Jr. (Justin Miller), Rob Riggle (Officer Segars), Nina Dobrev (Josie), Keegan-Michael Key (Pupa), Andy Garcia, James D’Arcy (Porter), Jonathan Lajoie (Todd Connors), Natasha Leggero (Annie)
Let’s be totally freaking honest here, I didn’t have very high hopes for Let’s Be Cops. as such, my expectations were pleasantly surprised by a movie that wasn’t bad, but okay. It is no comedy of the year, but it’s a fun take on a buddy cop movie. Jokes don’t always land and the premise is generally outlandish. Despite this, it isn’t hard to get caught up in the buddy cop pairing. The result is an okay movie, if not a particularly good one.
Spoilers! Since this is an advance Review, I will keep the Plot Summary off until the day before release.
Update 8/12: The Plot Sumary is up.
Justin Miller and Ryan O’Malley are two guys from Ohio who are failing to make it out in the tough city of Los Angeles. They’d promised each other that if they didn’t make it by the time they were 30 they’d head back home to Ohio. That time has come and the pair is still living in LA trying to make it. Ryan is a failed actor and former athlete who spends his days stomping on your boys as they play football. While Justin is an assistant at a video game company who can’t get get his idea past the boss. The pair are invited to an alumni masquerade, that Ryan interpreted as a costume party. Embarrassed, the pair leave and quickly discover how differently people act towards cops.
The antics really pick up as Ryan in particular takes his new role to an extreme. When the girl Justin likes calls on him and Ryan to come in and help against the Russian gangster, the two are suddenly in over their heads. This event, paired with Justin realizing how many years they could go to prison for because of their charade, Justin decides it’s time they need to back off. Ryan thinks differently and pulls them further into an investigation. Soon, they are truly in over their head as Ryan is captured by Mossi and Justin is attacked in his office meeting. When the real cops, and not the dirty ones, finally step in Ryan and Justin don’t back off, but help the real cops put Mossi and his boss away for good.
/End Plot Summary
Within minutes of watching the film, you get a sense that Jake Johnson is just playing his character Nick from New Girl. There is a lightness to his performance, but it is absolutely nothing new from what we’ve seen previously. Ryan is nothing more than a giant kid who plays football with other kids as he insults them. Ryan is in short, in a major rut and wants nothing more than to find his place even if he doesn’t want to openly admit it. Jake Johnson plays this role well, but it is also upsetting how close to Nick he actually comes off. It would have been nice to see a more unique character rather than a rip off something he’s been doing for three years now.
The dynamic between Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. is also remniscent of their relationship on new girl. The two relationships are very similar though the movie gives it more to shine. Ryan is the goofy obsessed one, while Justin is the straight man. Thankfully, Damon Wayans Jr. still gets his time to shine despite being the straight man. Unfortunately, his opportunities are more sporadic and as a result they sometimes feel lackluster. it isn’t that Wayans isn’t funny, it’s that when he does act extremely goofy it feels vastly different from his character’s normal behavior.
As for Justin in general, Wayans felt toned down. I understand that he is the straight man, but Wayans really shines when he has the opportunity to be strange and funny. This movie prevented a lot of that because of his character. I found that when Justin and Ryan were able to let loose they were not just at their most ridiculous, but the most funny.
Most of the characters lacked any real depth. Now let’s be honest, with this movie I wasn’t expecting some deep telling story. I didn’t expect the characters to have a large emotional journey. And I didn’t expect the sort of depth that I desire from characters that make them more than mere caricatures. I do expect to have characters have something going for them. The only character that had any substantial depth was Ryan who slowly found himself as he played the world’s most dangerous game of make believe. Justin on the other hand had shallow desires. He wanted to succeed, just like anyone wants to succeed. As a result things just happen to justin and we don’t really see him advancing as a person. Don’t even get me started on Nina Dobrev’s character who was flatter than matzo. We got that she had desires, but just like Justin, you were never made to care. Ryan however, elicited that desire to watch him succeed at something finally (if only so he would grow up a little).
As for the jokes, I have to give them that they had a lot that landed. It is very easy for comedies to just throw out anything they possibly can and hope that things stick. I’m not entirely sure that this wasn’t done for this movie as well, but it has a surprising number of attempts that end up producing laughs. There were a number of times that the audience was was with was roaring so loud at a previous joke that they missed a following joke. While not everything is funny, their attempts at least made sense within the context of the film.
The third act of the film took a sudden turn to the dark and serious side. It was a strange tonal shift as it happened almost immediately. Thankfully, it was easy to see that a shift would be coming as Ryan and Justin got in way over their heads. The tonal shift was rather telegraphed as it was clear from early on that things were going to get bad and Ryan and Justin would be placed in a serious position. In this case it was flirting with death as they pretended to be cops.
It was nice seeing Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. pair up for a buddy cop film. It would have been nice if they were playing some what new characters rather than slightly altered versions of their New Girl personas. That said, the movie provided laughs with its shallow characters and stayed rather focused. The result was a watchable movie that could have been better, but was still an okay time. It’s predictable and nothing that will be remembered for its ingenuity years down the line, but it was at least fun. Keegan-Michael Key’s small part adds a bit of levity to a droopy middle.
What did you think of the movie?