Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 30, 2021)
Best-known for violent genre fare like 2006’s Smokin’ Aces, 2021’s Copshop brings filmmaker Joe Carnahan back to his wheelhouse. Here we find a tale of desperate criminals.
Con artist Teddy Murretto (Frank Grillo) must deal with a desperate threat. Hitman Bob Viddick (Gerard Butler) pursues him, so Teddy needs to figure out how to save his skin.
As he passes through Nevada, Teddy comes up with a daring plan: he punches rookie cop Valerie Young (Alexis Louder) and gets locked up in a remote jail. However, this doesn’t dissuade Bob, who counters the scheme in his own creative ways and lands in the same prison.
Though my friend David Williams greatly enjoyed Carnahan’s 2002 flick Narc, I found myself less enchanted via my experiences with the filmmaker’s work. I loathed Smokin’ Aces, and 2010’s A Team offered a decent but unexceptional action flick.
Still, it’d been quite a while since I’d seen anything from Carnahan. This meant I felt open to the possibility Copshop would top his earlier work.
Happily, Copshop offers a fairly effective tale. While it never approaches greatness, it creates an intriguing cat and mouse narrative.
Whereas Smokin’ Aces borrowed heavily from Quentin Tarantino, Copshop feels more evocative of John Carpenter’s 1976 flick Assault on Precinct 13. Of course, Carpenter took 1959’s John Wayne Western Rio Bravo as inspiration, but with its 1970s vibe, it feels more evocative of the Carpenter film.
Actually, Carnahan can’t resist his Tarantino side, albeit in a different form than what we saw with Aces. Back then, Carnahan more clearly echoed the wild Pulp Fiction era QT, whereas Copshop seems closer to the more relatively subdued Death Proof Tarantino.
Whatever influences Carnahan wears on his sleeve, he manages to create a mostly engaging “ambush” flick. The decision to put both predator and prey in the same jail pays off well, as this ratchets up the tension.
Much of the film’s first half concentrates on the dynamic between Teddy and Bob, and this fares pretty nicely. Grillo and Butler bounce off each other in a satisfying manner, and the rest of the police department adds to the escalating drama as well.
In terms of warped thrills, though, Copshop doesn’t really take flight until competing assassin Anthony Lamb hits the scene midway through the movie. As played by Toby Huss, the character brings a much needed breath of lunacy to the proceedings.
A veteran character actor still probably best-known as Hank’s dad Cotton from King of the Hill, Huss takes on a role that should become annoying and makes him delightful. Huss brings just the right level of quirkiness and off-beat antics to the part.
Even without Huss’s delightful turn, though, Copshop delivers a largely compelling action thriller. Nothing here innovates, but it still winds up as a solid genre effort.