Kevin Smith, what have you done? After writing and directing some of the sweetest, funniest, quirkiest and warmest films of the past 15 years, his first attempt at a mainstream buddy cop movie is a clunky, embarrassing flop.
There are two big problems here. The first is the writing Smiths dialogue has always been so fresh, charming and witty that it gives even minor characters a life of their own. He is a master at riffing on the human need for love, always funny but never at anyones expense, and his I love you speech in Chasing Amy, delivered by Ben Affleck, is one of his finest moments.
Here he hands the writing reins over to Robb and Mark Cullen (Smith has described this as his first film as a director for hire, two writers with no pedigree, apart from a single episode of Alas Smith and Jones. Their plot, about two cops played by Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan who are taken off duty but pursue a drugs gang anyway, is standard stuff. The issue is one of humour simply, there isnt any. Two mismatched cops shouting at each other has been done a thousand times, but it desperately needs jokes and one-liners, and there are none to be found here.
Problem No 2 is the chemistry. Willis as a cop is fair enough casting, he can shoot a villain and deliver a cheesy put-down with the best of them. Morgan is the big worry here he has been plucked from the world of stand-up (and his role in 30 Rock), and obviously thinks he is still on a stage mugging for a deaf audience. His mannered, shouty performance lacks timing, subtlety and wit. He looks desperate, and he probably was.
Willis Jimmy is a cop who needs $48,000 in a hurry to pay for his daughters wedding, and plans to sell his collectors baseball card. However, when that is stolen by an amateur gang he and partner Hodges (Morgan) track them down, stop the drug dealers all over New York and save a hostage, but will he get his precious card back?
There are several running jokes here, none of them funny. Morgan is constantly jealous of his wife, played with some style and subtlety by Rashida Jones, one of the few actors to emerge with any credit. The card thief turns out to be Mr Nice Guy, and his running gag, of empathising with the villains feminine side, almost works. Then theres the boot fetish of the two cops officially signed to the case, a watchable Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody.
Mostly though its just Lethal Weapon-lite, with a stretched out plot and a few shoot-outs to liven things up a bit. Most of the blame should be laid at Morgans door, but who knows, with a better script he might have toned down his manic, sweaty performance. It all has the feel of a franchise, but that looks unlikely, and hopefully Smith has learned his lesson and will go back to what he does best. Even Dogma, his biggest misfire to date, wasnt this bad.
Overall verdict: Poor attempt at a cop buddy movie with nowhere near enough wit, tension or chemistry. Kevin Smith should be ashamed of himself hopefully he will recover and learn his lessons.
Reviewer: Mike Martin