Copshop review: Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo, violence

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From director Joe Carnahan comes Copshop, a film that gives you a bit of Frank Grillo and Gerard Butler for your money too.

This one starts out in the open. Wearing a 70s feel in its early stage with absolute pride, we get a mix of ingredients. A burger van in the Nevada desert, a mystery man running to escape from something, a casino in the middle of nowhere, and a Gerard Butler drive-by. Well, it’s not a bad statement of intent is it?


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Penned by Kurt McLeod and Joe Carnahan – with story credit to Mark Williams – Copshop soon narrows its focus though. We found ourselves in a small police station, where not particularly efficient cops seem to be settling in for a hopefully-quiet night shift. Not so, of course, as the mists begin to clear. Down in the cells of said police station are Frank Grillo’s Teddy and Gerard Butler’s Viddick. They are not friends, and it immediately becomes apparent that – no spoilers – there are low odds of them both getting through the movie.

But there are other factors and forces in play too, and in the midst of them is one who turns out to be the film’s trump card: Alexis Louder as Valerie. She’s the rookie cop who finds herself in the middle of a hellish situation. And whilst the bulk of Copshop is dialogue driven, there’s a fair amount of action she has to contend with too. She seems at home with both.

It’s a good job too, as we don’t get quite as much time with the two named leads as you might expect. Butler in particular spends a portion of the film restrained. Appreciating there’s a market for films where he’s handcuffed and lit in dank blue light, he’s perhaps deceptively billed as the lead here. Frank Grillo is typically committed, and you do get more of him. I didn’t quite think that Copshop ever exploded into the head to head that it threatened to be.

But then I don’t think the film itself properly ignited either.

I’ve had a lot of fun with Joe Carnahan-directed films before, and there are moments here too where it starts to spark. One particular sequence is excellent, where the limits of a bulletproof door and window are thoroughly tested. There’s a character who appears part-way through the story and gives things a kickstart too, bringing some fine balloons along with them.

Furthermore, Carnahan has lots of fun with setup. When we arrive at the police station where the bulk of the film is set, he’s careful to follow the Die Hard mantra of show us the geography first. He’s experienced at this, and knows how to get everything into place.

I also got no sense that – outside of perhaps budget – this was compromised. It feels like the film someone intended to make.

The problem was I just didn’t particularly warm to it, for a few reasons. I didn’t get much of a sense of the claustrophobia from the surroundings which didn’t help, and the generally wide shots left me often me in little doubt they’re on a movie set, rather than buying into it was real. There are moments too in Copshop that perhaps could have worked with more intimacy – not that kind, behave – on stage, but in the film they didn’t crackle for me. But perhaps more fundamentally, it never fully got its grip. Thus, by the time things inevitably start to escalate, I was watching Copshop, but it was hard to be too invested in it.

The one caveat to that is the aforementioned Alexis Louder, and I’m promptly off to seek out more of her work. And it’d be remiss of me the also note that on the plus side, there’s a tasty moment where Gerard Butler’s eyes practically bulge from his face as he screams “he’s gonna die”. It’s hard not to enjoy that.

The film itself though has enough in it to warrant a watch. But I found it more about individual moments than a thoroughly engaging whole.

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