Synopsis – A small town police station becomes the unlikely battleground between a professional hitman, a smart female rookie cop and a double crossing conman who seeks refuge behind bars with no place left to run.
My Take – Though director Joe Carnahan has arguably earned better critical acclaim for his more serious fares like Narc (2002) and The Grey (2011), his genre tastes continue to remain clear.
Right from his feature directorial debut in the form of Blood, Guts, Bullets, and Octane (1998) to his follow up films like Smokin’ Aces (2006), The A-Team (2010), Stretch (2014) and Boss Level (2021), director Carnahan has remains focused on creating lightly budgeted action flicks with simple stories that are backed by enough oomph, style and over-the-top violence all to deliver blockbuster entertainment deliver from start to finish. And his latest is no different.
Co-written by Carnahan and Kurt McLeod, giving off major Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) vibes, the film acts as a wise-cracking, violent homage to pulpy ’70s B-film action flicks that nicely uses its single location to provide a thrill-a-minute blast that rains as much lead as killer-good laughs.
Built around a nifty premise that sets up a number of unpredictable second-half revelations, there is just enough of an infusion of black comedy and saucy wordplay to keeps things lively throughout. And of course there’s the inevitable violent final act blow-out that packs enough carnage and mayhem to leave especially genre fans grinning.
Sure, although it may not be his most successful outing, but it sure makes for one of the year’s most entertaining flicks as the perfectly cast ensemble add up to some really satisfying moments, resulting in an enjoyable action thriller that’s witty and tense at the same time.
The story follows Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo), a con-man and seasoned mob fixer, who is on the run due to the bounty on his head resulting in several interested parties eager to cash in. One such party is the ruthless and notorious hit-man Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler), a career killer known for his no-nonsense efficiency and penchant for violence. Realizing that Viddick is the one closing in behind him, in an act of desperation, Teddy ends up punching Valerie Young (Alexis Louder), a rookie police officer, to get himself arrested and hide out in the safety of a jail cell.
What he doesn’t count on is to see Viddick do something similar, resulting in the assassin and the target sitting across from each other in different cells, leaving Valerie to put together the pieces. However things get worse, when Anthony “Tony” Lamb (Toby Huss), a psychopathic professional killer with an array of deadly skills and sense of humor to match, also arrives to kill Teddy, turning the usually quite Gun Creek Police Station into a place of absolute mayhem and chaos.
Rough and entirely unapologetic, the bulk of the beats feel familiar enough, starting with its riff on filmmaker John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), but director Carnahan and his team do great work making this entirely their own. The first half is mostly focused on the entertaining build-up as Teddy and Bob banter while Young gets irritated by watching them in her vicinity.
The film is as much a battle of wits as it is weapons, as each of these characters are attempting to anticipate the moves of the others, while not getting killed in the process. The interplay among Valerie, Viddick, and Teddy is laced with suspense and, although the content of the dialogue doesn’t rise to Tarantino kind of levels, the rhythm is there. That is until the second half welcomes the explosion of violence as a release for the tension that has been building up.
Allowing director Carnahan to divulge in his staple guns-a-blazing, body-count, and blood fest as eventually everyone comes out of their cages and maneuver around the station trying to murder anything that moves.
In most surprising turn of events, although the film may be assembled around the confrontation between Teddy and Viddick, Valerie represents the film’s heart and the whole event is largely presented from her point-of-view. A good thing considering Valerie has the ordinary yet appealing mix of tough-as-nails and vulnerability, who is forced by circumstances to do some extraordinary things.
Yes, as enjoyably chaotic as it is, the film does suffer from a certain amount of predictability in places. Nevertheless, watching everyone have so much fun on screen, especially the cast, it ends up more than making up for these faults.
One of the most interesting aspects of the film is watching Gerard Butler play a character who isn’t trying to save the day. By subverting expectations (many will go in expecting him to be front-and-center), Butler is able to do and say things that result in a deliciously ambivalent character. Bob doesn’t have much of an arc but he’s a lot more interesting than the run-of-the-mill killing machine. Frank Grillo is right at home here and delivers a refreshingly toned-down performance that allows him to reside in this grey area between good and evil which creates an enigma that keeps the audience guessing whether to root for his survival or not.
But the real standout comes in the form of Alexis Louder who matches her two burly co-stars and walks away with the biggest piece of the cake. Toby Huss too is excellent and delivers a dark comedic routine throughout. In other roles, Ryan O’Nan, Chad Coleman, Kaiwi Lyman-Mersereau, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Christopher Michael Holley, Marshall Cook, Robert Walker Branchaud and Tracey Bonner provide good support. On the whole, ‘Copshop’ is a wildly entertaining action thriller that is suitably stylish with lots of energy.
Directed – Joe Carnahan
Rated – R
Run Time – 107 minutes