“Who wants to be a cop?” asks a douchebag of a videogame designer at the start of Let’s Be Cops. He’s got a point, too. At a time when civil unrest is rife in Ferguson, Missouri following a fatal shooting and our own officers are being forced to face up to their failure in the Rotherham child abuse scandal, has the life of a police officer ever looked less desirable?
Unfortunately, inauspicious timing has not deterred the makers of Let’s Be Cops, a movie about two slackers pretending to uphold the law, who plough ahead with a hackneyed buddy cop comedy that’s less 21 Jump Street and more Cop Out without the star power.
Although New Girl actors Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. shine as a well-worked double act, that’s mostly because they are playing big screen versions of their sitcom characters. Johnson is Ryan, a directionless loser who is happy to live of the proceeds from a genital herpes ad, while Wayans plays Justin, a mild, unconfident game designer who can’t get his boss to take him seriously.
They’re old friends who moved to LA to follow their dreams but now realise they’ve somehow hit thirty and have absolutely nothing to show for it. All seems hopeless until they attend a costume party decked in the nifty navy blue of the LAPD and suddenly get the confidence boost they need when people mistake them for the real deal.
For a while this results in a series of hilarious shenanigans as our buddy non-cops soak up the respect and admiration of their peers before getting dragged into some real police work involving one naked perp, a hit of crystal meth and a whole lotta guns.
But just when you think the action is going to play out across one long night like a fast-paced comedy hybrid of Date Night and Grand Theft Auto, the movie gets stuck in a rut of its own as the limits of its one-note joke become glaringly obvious.
It doesn’t help that director Luke Greenfield decides to diverge from the main plot to set-up a second narrative thread between Ryan and the nerdy school boy he takes on as a protégé, which has absolutely no importance to the main story and ultimately only serves to dampen the tempo.
Likewise, stretching the story out over the course of several days strains the credulity of its premise to breaking point. In movie terms, its perfectly believable that two guys could be mistaken for cops and by a run of misfortune become embroiled in a violent criminal underworld, but here the characters have to make the decision to continue the charade, which frankly makes absolutely no sense – especially when they become the targets of a sinister Albanian drug cartel (because all Albanians are gangsters, right?).
The film also fails to serve its supporting cast, landing Andy Garcia with a bum role as a restrained crime lord and casting Rob Riggle in the all-American bozo role we’ve seen him play a hundred times before.
Its treatment of its female characters is even worse, using Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) as Justin’s pretty love interest whose role is to be groped by oily bad guy Mossi and get all flustered whenever she’s around a man in uniform. Meanwhile, Natasha Leggero is the horny resident of a stakeout location, just so that Ryan can get some female attention also.
Let’s Be Cops isn’t the worst comedy you will see this year but it is so lacking in imagination and invention, as proved in a ho-hum denouement which sees the characters end up exactly where you thought they would, that it is hard to enjoy and is instantly forgettable.
Alas, the movie has already made back more than twice its budget at the American box office making a sequel almost inevitable. Roll on Let’s Be Financial Advisors or whatever boring idea they come up with next.
Running time: 104 mins; Genre: Comedy/Action; Released: 27 August 2014;
Director: Luke Greenfield; Screenwriters: Luke Greenfield, Nicholas Thomas;
Starring: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans Jr, Nina Dobrev, Andy Garcia.
Click here to watch the trailer for Let’s Be Cops