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What Went Wrong?: Vol. 50 – Spectacularly Ill Advised Buddy Cop Edition
July 19, 2014Posted by on
The buddy cop comedy/action film is, at this point, old hat for Hollywood. Even after being perfected by Lethal Weapon (and its eventual sequels) way back in the late 80s, every once in a while someone tries to update the genre anyway, usually to mixed success. A few outliers include the Rush Hour franchise, which was huge for a few years, as well as last year’s The Heat, a Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy “comedy” that was one of the worst films I saw in theaters last year. Something about pairing up two people who do not ostensibly go together just has some kind of special appeal to Hollywood, I guess. I’m not necessarily opposed to the buddy cop genre, but let’s be honest here – it is almost entirely played out.
Despite this, in 2009 Warner Bros. gave Kevin Smith, who is not particularly known for directing action films, 35 million dollars to make a Bruce Willis/Tracy Morgan buddy cop film titled A Couple of Dicks, a film title that was funny the first time I heard it, but grew tiresome after that (much like Homer Simpson’s barbershop quartet The Be Sharps). Smith was forced, however, to change the title after Warner Bros. decided it might not be a good idea to have the word Dicks on a theater marquee. The best thing he could come up with then was Cop Out, another incredibly dumb title. The difference between the two was that while A Couple of Dicks was momentarily clever, Cop Out was always dumb.
Post name change, negative buzz continued to surround the film, particularly after the initial trailer was released in late 2009. The trailer was met with almost universal disdain, with criticism leveled at the unfunny jokes, the lazy riffing, and yet another bored Bruce Willis performance. When Cop Out was finally released in theaters late February 2010, critics unleashed vitriol not seen in quite some time upon it. The film scored a terrible 19% on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes and abysmal 31/100 on Metacritic. Reviewers criticized the film’s laziness and poor script (it should be noted that Smith only directed and did not write Cop Out) as well as Bruce Willis’ terrible performance, which marked perhaps his eighth or ninth lazy/disinterested/boring performance in a row.
So, umm, what else went wrong? Well, for starters the film didn’t exactly light up the box office. Though it opened somewhat strongly with 18 million dollars, the film closed with about 44 million domestically and didn’t even double its budget worldwide, meaning it likely never turned a profit for studio Warner Bros. Furthermore, controversy arose in the aftermath of the film when it was revealed that director Smith feuded constantly with Willis on set. In an interview with podcaster/comedian Marc Maron in early 2011, Smith claimed that Willis would not even so much as sit for a poster shoot, and if not for the interventions of Tracy Morgan, that it could have gotten much worse between the two. A representative for Bruce Willis later claimed Smith smoked way too much marijuana on set, a claim Smith essentially owned up to.
In the aftermath of the various Cop Out controversies, Smith essentially retired from mainstream filmmaking. In addition to the Willis feud, Smith also unnecessarily provoked the ire of film critics when he claimed he would no longer hold free reviewer’s screenings for his films. This particularly rankled legendary film critic Roger Ebert and caused the reviewer community to claim Smith was both dishonest and disingenuous. Since Cop Out’s release in 2010, Smith has not directed another widely released film. His 2011 film Red State, which was widely panned but at least met with some positive critical notice, was available on video-on-demand. His next film, Tusk (another horror title), will be probably be distributed on video-on-demand once again later this year.
Kevin Smith has a fairly large and vocal fan base, but he has seemingly alienated everyone else around him. He hasn’t had a hit film in years, his films no longer appear in theaters, and even the movies he has made with big name actors (Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks) have done mediocre business at the box office (2008’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno was Seth Rogen’s first mainstream flop). 2010’s Cop Out drew Smith’s harshest reviews ever, failed to launch at the box office, ignited significant controversy, and has ultimately failed to endure, largely due to poor direction, a tired and cliché script, and an incredibly lazy Bruce Willis performance. Smith likely thought he had a Rush Hour-sized hit on his hands, but Cop Out ended up being one of the worst films of 2010, ultimately appealing to no one at all and essentially ending Kevin Smith’s mainstream directing career.