Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"There's some good old fashioned film-making here."

So Seventies in its outlook that it's not actually surprising to see a character in flashback in a pastel blue suit with flared trousers, Copshop would be a pretty solid B-picture if those distinctions mattered. As it stands it's probably too long, definitely too derivative, and never quite seems to find the right tone.

While Gerard Butler produces, he, Toby Huss, and Frank Grillo are wrapped in a payback and revenge cycle tied up with notions of organised crime. On a few occasions I was reminded of Casino, but the explorations here are less of how the desire of capital is independent of legality but "What if someone went to a police station to do a crime?" This isn't The Big Job, or even Blue Streak, though the language is definitely of the latter. In its vaguely grindhouse sensibilities it's perhaps more akin to Free Fire but for all its focus on a building it's never solid enough to feel arch.

Copy picture

As those three get variously involved, one cop is out to stop them. Alexis Louder plays Valerie Young, of a sensibility more of the Wild West than Dock Green. Armed with a single action revolver, I think a Ruger Blackhawk, named after the Stutz automobile rather than directly for the tribe. A modern recreation of something superseded by later developments, the film borrows furniture, architecture, fonts, even soundtrack from the Seventies.

It opens with Lalo Schifrin's theme from Magnum Force, and while I'll ever suggest that it's dangerous for films to reference other, better, works, we are talking about the second outing for Dirty Harry. This is at least as nihilistic, and while it's stealing it also lifts from things like Die Hard and if one checked its pockets there'd probably be traces of Tarantino.

Joe Carnahan is no stranger to crime capers, he directed Smoking Aces, Stretch, the A-Team movie. I don't know if it's an indicator of quality but he's not the only one to have worked with Liam Neeson,. Co-writer (and TV production veteran) Mark Williams also penned Honest Thief. The writing trio is rounded out by Kurt McLeod, his script was first mooted some six years ago and this is a debut feature. Would this have felt fresher six years ago? Maybe. Would this have been made six years ago? Maybe not.

There's some good old fashioned film-making here. I think one of the desert backdrops is a matte painting on a studio's exterior wall. Filmed in New Mexico and Georgia it's set in Nevada, in the kind of Seventies municipal architecture that's almost inevitably being renovated. Not just in ways that are in violation of site security and health and safety standards either, but in ways that are useful to plot development. It's set mostly overnight so the fact that the exteriors are CG of stock footage of scrubland and the brown and blues of the corridors with strips of fluorescent orange doesn't immediately feel like aesthetic ennui. That does set in after a while, however, with scenes that don't feel like they've been lit as graded to darkness. Visually it's sometimes muddier than its morality, and it's got little to hold head high about there. It's got characters called Thaddeus, a role credited as "shocked bridesmaid", enough arms and ammunition that your man Chekhov would have no room on any wall for pictures.

The tale of cross and single-cross unfolds across a single evening. Double- would require a level of unpredictability that even a couple of cameos and some flashbacks can't manage to instil. The score by Clinton Shorter is not bad, but overshadowed by Schifrin at the opening and, well, a split-screen singalong to Curtish Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead". You know, from Superfly.

There's some amusement. The film doesn't shy from the challenge of cellphones but one scene is dependent on a very generous policy in terms of allowing belongings into custody. The plot in part relies on charges not being upgraded as events in holding escalate, and while Butler's American accent is pretty solid these days his rapport never really convinces. As Anthony Lamb, a submachinegun toting avatar of the Eighties, Toby Huss walks a line in sleazy plimsolls that seems pretty silly at steps. As the spark for the chaos, Frank Grillo is alright as Teddy Murretto but sympathies are hard to maintain. Alexis Louder is the best part of this, and she deserves better.

Many of those involved are also in Carnahan's near simultaneous project 'Boss Level', where a gunman in a time-loop serves as amusing parallel to how repetitive and derivative this feels. He's also apparently working on a remake of The Raid, and that was so long ago that stars like Iko Uwais have parlayed it into roles in GI Joe movies... That's not to say it isn't amusing, I'm a fan of a fanned hammer in a gunfight. That rhythm though isn't just gunplay but the rattle of cliche. Stock characters abound, and at times that load feels too much to shoulder. Copshop is diverting enough, but unless you're on the look out for it, find something else to fit the bill.

Reviewed on: 16 Sep 2021
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Copshop packshot
On the run from an assassin, a con artist devises a scheme to hide out inside a small-town police station.

Director: Joe Carnahan

Writer: Kurt McLeod, Joe Carnahan, Mark Williams

Starring: Frank Grillo, Gerard Butler, Toby Huss, Alexis Louder, Tait Fletcher

Year: 2021

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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