The American Society of Cinematographers

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Return to Table of Contents September 2010 Return to Table of Contents
Boardwalk Empire
Presidents Desk
DVD Playback
Black Narcissus
Cop Out
Red Desert
ASC Close-Up
Cop Out (2010)
Blu-ray Edition
2.40:1 (1080p High-Definition)
DTS-HD 5.1
Warner Home Video, $35.99

Ever since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid rode to box office glory in 1969, the buddy movie has been a staple of American cinema. In the tradition’s latest entry, Cop Out, Bruce Willis returns to the genre of Die Hard and The Last Boy Scout to play Jimmy Monroe, a cop who’s trying to find a way to pay for his daughter’s expensive wedding. He and his partner, Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan), find themselves enmeshed in a dangerous drug case after a thief (Seann William Scott) steals Jimmy’s valuable Andy Pathko baseball card – the card Jimmy was hoping to sell to finance the wedding. When the card finds its way into the hands of a vicious drug dealer (Guillermo Diaz), Jimmy and Paul try to retrieve it while also working the case and engaging in a constant string of shoot-outs and car chases.  

A high-octane studio action film might seem like an unlikely project for indie filmmaker Kevin Smith, but Cop Out is a surprisingly satisfying jump into the mainstream for the cult director. Smith has paid tribute to the movies and pop culture of the 1980’s in the dialogue of all of his films, but Cop Out represents his first attempt to actually make a movie that looks and sounds as though it could have been released in that period. From the delightfully retro Harold Faltermeyer synth score (recalling the composer’s work on the Fletch and Beverly Hills Cop movies) to a deft intermingling of verbal comedy and violent action, Cop Out effortlessly evokes the era of 48HRS., Lethal Weapon, and Tango & Cash.

Smith clearly loves the buddy cop genre so much that multiple viewings of its touchstones have allowed him to absorb its conventions into his DNA, and in Cop Out he skillfully synthesizes the pleasures of the genre with his usual preoccupations. Working for the first time with outside screenwriters as collaborators (Robb Cullen and Mark Cullen), Smith uses the movie’s subplots (Paul’s obsession with catching his wife in an affair and Jimmy’s inability to compete financially with his ex-wife’s new husband) to continue the ongoing exploration of male arrested development and sexual insecurity that began with Clerks.  

In keeping with this consistency of theme, Smith reunites with cinematographer David Klein, ASC with whom the director previously collaborated on Clerks, Chasing Amy, and the TV series Reaper, among other projects. Shooting in a ’scope aspect ratio (on 3-perf Super-35), Klein stages elegantly choreographed action sequences that, in keeping with the 1980’s sensibility, rely more on composition and camera movement than hyperactive editing to generate momentum. The 2.40 ratio also serves the actors well, as Klein allows many of the comic dialogue exchanges to play out in frames that honor multiple points of view and emphasize the camaraderie between Willis and Morgan’s characters.

Klein also employs a diverse range of colors that’s especially pleasing on Cop Out’s Blu-ray presentation: from the cool exteriors that recall the work of Ric Waite, ASC on 48Hrs., to warmer interiors that enhance the comic and character-driven aspects of the film, Klein’s palette is as lively as his framing. The blues of the night exteriors and the flattering flesh tones in the film’s calmer moments are well represented on the disc’s high-def transfer, which also boasts a superb surround mix – Faltermeyer’s score and the expertly designed effects in the movie’s many shoot-outs make full use of the clarity and dynamic range of DTS-HD format.                        

Smith has always been generous with the extra features on his DVDs, and Cop Out is no exception. The disc’s “Maximum Comedy Mode” is a visual, multi-layered commentary track in which Smith takes the viewer through the movie and not only comments on the production but introduces alternate takes, deleted and extended scenes, and bloopers that are integrated into the film (it takes about three hours to watch the movie this way). There’s also text that pops up throughout to provide additional trivia, storyboards running alongside some of the scenes, and documentary footage of the cast and crew at work. The material is all beautifully assembled and provides fans with real insight into how Smith, Klein, and the rest of the cast and crew took the piece from script to storyboards to finished film.

Additional supplements include a 21-minute package of interviews with cast and crew labeled “Focus Points” (these can be viewed as a separate feature or as part of the “Maximum Comedy Mode” experience) and the four-minute “Wisdom from the Shit Bandit,” a silly but undeniably hilarious collection of faux life lessons (also integrated into the “Maximum Comedy Mode”) imparted by supporting player Seann William Scott. The Blu-ray comes packaged with a second disc that contains a standard-definition transfer of the movie on one side and a digital download version on the other side, giving the consumer three ways to enjoy the film.

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