Coming out this week on DVD and Blu-ray: Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan star as zany cops in Kevin Smith‘s action-comedy, Cop Out; a group of framed CIA agents try to clear their names in The Losers; plus a look at season two of Lexx on DVD.
Cop Out made me realize that there are now two versions of Kevin Smith floating around in my head. The first Kevin Smith wrote and directed Clerks, Mall Rats, and Zack and Miri Make A Porno; three funny, clever films that show Smith’s ability to write amazing dialogue and tell great stories.
The other Kevin Smith is the director of Cop Out, a film that shares Smith’s sense of humour, but it’s a film that has little in common with the director’s best works. Approaching Cop Out as a fan, you might even wonder why Smith would get involved in the first place, aside from the chance to work with Bruce Willis.
Willis and Morgan star as Jimmy and Paul, a pair of New York police officers who have been suspended from the force for a month because of a botched arrest that left their informant dead, and a ridiculous video of Paul on YouTube.
For Jimmy, the problem is that he’s short on cash as it is, and to help pay for his daughter’s wedding he needs to come up with a lot of money, and fast. His solution is to sell his prized 1952 Andy Pafko baseball card, but when a random thief, played by Seann William Scott, steals it, Jimmy and Paul find themselves in an awkward position involving a kidnapped woman and a local drug dealing gangster.
Written by Robb and Mark Cullen, the film is basically an homage, as the film itself pretty much admits early on, to classic police films of the last couple of decades. More to the point though, it feels like it was inspired by films like the Beverly Hills Cop or Lethal Weapon series.
Those films were great in their day, and the concept is overdue for a revival, but the Cullen’s script for Cop Out is a weak, derivative work that is chuckle-worthy, and sometimes even laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s also a very slow film that feels spread thin over the 113-minute running time.
Smith’s direction also does not help. He leads his cast well, but the film is otherwise weak and aimless, and really made me question what he was doing working with such a mediocre script.
Despite the film’s failings, Willis, Morgan and Scott are a great trio, and they make the best of a bad situation. Morgan and Scott in particular are as hilarious as the film allows, although they get the benefit of some of the best scenes. I was also impressed with the chemistry between Willis and Morgan, who make for a great on-screen team. It makes you wish there could be a sequel, just as long as better writers wrote the script, and Smith found some sort of motivation.
Calling Smith a bad director is hard for me — I’ve been a fan for a long time — but after watching Cop Out I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. Working with someone else’s script, Smith seems lost and disconnected from the characters, and he seems powerless to improve the story. Where the script fails, he fails right on top of it, and it’s only the great lead actors and their chemistry that makes the film bearable.
At the end of the film, I was left wondering why Smith would direct this sluggish buddy film, and I can only imagine it was to earn points with studio executives so he can make bigger films. Now though, he’s going to have to prove himself again to audiences who may rightfully wonder where the Kevin Smith they knew has gone.
Director Sylvain White’s The Losers also debuts on DVD this week, offering a straight-forward actioner that just wants to let the bullets fly while everything explodes.
Essentially ripping off the most popular tongue-in-cheek action films from the last 30 years, The Losers stars Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Zoe Saldana as a group of ex-CIA agents who have a bit of a grudge. On a mission to Bolivia the team is double-crossed by a rogue CIA agent, and now they are willing to do anything to get back at the man known as Max, played by Jason Patric.
Considered a suicide mission, the squad not only have to contend with the CIA itself, who think they are the bad guys, but they will also have to deal with Max’s plans to set off a war that could have far-reaching consequences.
Although the plot is your basic “bring on the guns and explosions” setup, the problem is that it actually takes some talent to make that kind of movie work, and White was perhaps not quite up to the challenge. The director, who previously helmed Stomp the Yard and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, earned some praise from critics, but for the most part they all agreed with Dan Kois of the Village Voice.
“Director Sylvain White and screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Peter Berg strain to achieve the pleasurable mix of cheap laughs and expensive action that Lethal Weapon pulled off effortlessly with the help of its stellar cast,” Kois wrote.
While Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote in his review, “Basically, it’s The A-Team meets Rambo meets Mission: Impossible, with a mission that’s one part trickiness, four parts blowing stuff up.”
Explaining a show like Lexx to the average person is a bit like trying to describe the crazy dream you had last night. “There’s this space ship,” you might say, “but it’s actually a giant bug that can blow up planets, and it has a crew that includes a robot head, a dead assassin, a middle-aged security guard, and a hot woman who is actually part lizard.”
And the premise isn’t even the weirdest part; the episodes can be far out, to say the least.
Lexx is unquestionably one of the most bizarre shows to air in Canada, and yet there is no question for me that it was also one of the more clever examples of modern sci-fi taken in a strange, new, whimsical direction.
In the second season, the series jumps into gear with 20 forty-five minute episodes, improved special effects, and a narrative shift that featurs a number of episodes that tell more about the cast, rather than focusing on one main story arc like we saw in the debut season.
This season’s plot revolves around the crew exploring the Light Universe, which is slowly being consumed by an army of flying robot arms controlled by His Divine Shadow, the crew’s nemesis from the first season. As the universe crumbles, the crew is oblivious, wandering around looking for something fun to do, or else they’re fighting off the latest batch of insane people they’ve stumbled upon.
This season also marks the debut of Xenia Seeberg as Xev, the biological copy of Zev who essentially takes over the role played in the first season by Eva Habermann. Although I didn’t have a problem with Habermann, Seeberg is a much more entertaining co-star for this weird and wonderful series, and she brings a coy, sultry air to the character, which works quite well next to Brian Downey’s performance as Stanley H. Tweedle, and Michael McManus’ dark role as Kai.
Lexx certainly found its legs in the second season as it introduced a number of classic episodes like “Wake the Dead,” “Lafftrak,” and the very memorable musical episode, “Brigadoom.” Carrying on from its debut, the second season was a surprising adventure again, filled with wit and charm, and questionable moral choices from Stan and his crew of misfits.
My only major complaint with this edition of Lexx on DVD is the utter void of special features. I was also aware of the show’s poor video quality this time out, which had a lot of noise, and was generally not very sharp. Since the show was an independent production, and because it’s so much fun to watch, I’m really not willing to hold that minor flaw against the series though.