Copshop Synopsis: wily con artist Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo) hatches a plan to hide from lethal assassin Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler). He punches rookie officer Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) to get himself arrested and locked up in a small-town police station. However, jail can’t protect Murretto for long as Viddick schemes his own way into detention, biding his time in a nearby cell until he can complete his mission.
Similar to his brazenly outspoken public persona, writer/director Joe Carnahan has carved a career out of bold cinematic throwbacks. From the violent carnage of 2006’s hitman actioner Smokin’ Aces to the comedic mania of 2014’s underrated Stretch – Carnahan continues to embrace his distinct and kinetic sensibility.
Carnahan’s latest lean-and-mean thrill ride, Copshop, cleverly utilizes its COVID-19 filmed conditions by sticking to the confines of a run-down police station. In his presentation of a dog-eats-dog environment full of crooked cronies, Carnahan plays to his strengths in a breezy genre picture.
Copshop skillfully rides a delicate balance between self-seriousness and self-awareness. Carnahan and co-writer Kurt McLeod thread the needle effectively through their sharp screenplay, implementing a medley of vulgar one-liners and oddball comedic bits to invigorate the traditioned narrative. The duo keenly understands the familiar narrative waters they are treading – and while the film never relents from its straight-faced delivery, there’s enough playful energy to propel the chaos onscreen. When the tonalities come together, Copshop frames itself as a western-esque battle between good and evil, with the two opposing forces sharing a twistedly conjoined reality in their relentless chase after one another.
Despite working in a closed-off setting, Carnahan unleashes viscerally vibrant choices behind the camera. Cinematographer Juan Miguel Azpiroz turns the narrative limitations into an asset – as he and Carnahan morph the antiquated setting into a tight-quarters maze riddled with bullets and bloodshed. The duo’s dim color pallet and no-thrills framing are a welcoming embrace to the aesthetics of yesteryear. I credit Carnahan for recreating his throwback-inspired pastiche without hammering the conceit with clunky gimmicks.
Copshop’s twisting narrative comes to life under the guidance of a skilled cast. Alexis Louder easily stands as the breakout of the bunch, infusing her straight-arrow police role with action star charisma and sturdy dramatic chops. In a film chock-full of manic caricatures, she provides a much-needed center for the unrelenting narrative. Gerard Butler is an absolute menace as the rugged hitman Bob Viddick – and I mean that in the best possible way. Butler’s abilities are best showcased when embodying grimey scumbags (Den of Thieves) rather than generic everymen, with his dynamic presence creating a charismatic killer operating under his own honored code. Frank Grillo is also fittingly squirely as Teddy, sporting a ridiculous man-bun and deceptive energy as a crook who’s constantly on the run.
Copshop elicits crowd-pleasing entertainment throughout its runtime, but some of Carnhan’s trademarks fail to connect. A few comedic bits -particularly those from Toby Huss’s role as a crazed killer – try too hard to generate stir-crazy energy from stagnating material. While the film effectively whisks audiences along, Carnahan and McLeod’s script doesn’t do much to reinvent the wheel. There’s a wave of expository backstory that fails to draw interest, with the film’s convoluted web of relationships never being as cohesive as Carnahan’s clear inspirations (the writer/director has always showcased a mix of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino).
Copshop doesn’t break new ground, but Carnahan and company infuse enough infectious style and energy to create a winning genre romp.