“Let’s Be Cops is this year’s winner for a “major-minor” comedy, a film that was panned by critics but still has certain merit that has rather gone unexplored.”
Let’s Be Cops is an energetic comedy romp, boasting ideas and circumstances that could land one in prison for years, but also includes some seriously deep undertones about fulfilling expected potential and achieving some form of greatness before your time inevitably expires. With two seriously committed performers and a screenplay by two men, one of them, director Luke Greenfield (director of the underrated Girl Next Door), that nicely juggles weighty themes and strong comedy, we have a winning comedy in a month of the year in American cinema we’re not really supposed to expect it
I’ve talked way too much about how the months of the year are crucial in defining what kind of films we will see hit American multiplexes. August is a time of grave uncertainty and inconsistency with American releases, with much of the month being a dumping ground for films belonging to barrages of different genres. Just this month, we will see action, superhero, comedy, espionage, science fiction, and quiet dramas, with little consistency whatsoever, most of which will bear mediocre to average ratings from critics. Let’s Be Cops has already been slammed by enough critics and is in desperate need for a voice that accurately defines a method to its madness.
The film stars Jake M. Johnson (Joe Swanberg’s fantastic Drinking Buddies) and Damon Wayans, Jr. as Ryan O’Malley and Justin Miller, two thirty-year-old roommates who are existing rather than living. Ryan was a football star in college, but after a career-ending injury, has lived off of a solid amount of money from a genital herpes commercial and gets by by playing football with kids significantly younger than him. Justin is a video game designer, who’s intricate idea for a video game where one plays as a police officer is robbed of its creative control by being turned into a video game called “Firefighters vs. Zombies.” Both men recognize that they aren’t living life, simply existing rather than truly embracing each day, which leads to a change of routine following a costume party where the two dress as cops.
Upon arriving to the party, dressed in authentic police officer garb, Ryan and Justin unmistakably look like police officers, and Ryan’s overactive imagination decides to play the gag for all its worth. He buys a used Crown Victoria police car online, buys decals to make sure it looks official, and even teaches himself all the police codes and lingo via Youtube videos. At first, Justin is incredibly apprehensive, fearing jailtime and unintended consequences, but goes along with it once he is able to attract the attention of Josie (Nina Dobrev), his longtime crush, who works as a hostess and is a part-time makeup designer. However, Ryan and Justin become far too immersed in the police life, eventually finding themselves wrapped up in a real-life drug ring, with dangerous men who need to be stopped in order to reassure the city’s safety. The two, despite their better judgment, act on impulse and decide to try and bring down the men responsible for the heinous crimes of the city.
Much of the film is carried by the chemistry of Johnson and Wayans, Jr., who just light up on screen, whether they are simply exchanging goofy banter or engaging in a hot-pursuit chase. In addition, both men have enough time to convey personalities and personal aspirations on screen, rather than the whole thing being a last minute thought by writers Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas. Greenfield also keeps the action scenes of the film just as alive and spirited as the comedy, and most importantly, never using too much of one genre over another and, in turn, producing a film far too biased on either side.
The only drawback to Let’s Be Cops is it isn’t completely consistent with its humor, however, there is a great deal of enjoyment in watching our two heroes try to amateurishly piece together the crime and work around it faster than the real cops. It’s quite notable for a comedy that isn’t funny all the time to still be rewarding in the plot and character development department (one hilarious character is played by Keegan Michael-Kay, who makes incredibly efficient use of his rather thin character), and the fact that the film can sustain so much on an admittedly thin premise is rather remarkable. The energy of everyone involved and the fun of catching the drug dealers is just as good as the laughs (which, make no mistake, come in a healthy number). Let’s Be Cops is this year’s winner for a “major-minor” comedy, a film that was panned by critics but still has certain merit that has rather gone unexplored.