During his career, Joe Carnham has cornered the market in gritty, sarcastic throwbacks that alternate between harrowing drama (Narc, The Grey) and darkly humorous romps (Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team) and it’s fair to say that his latest, the swaggeringly cynical Copshop, falls neatly into the latter camp riddled with nicely stylish bullets.
It feels like it’s been quite a while since one of these endearingly smug action/thrillers packed with exaggerated characters and acidic one-liners landed in a cinema for us to gawp at (Carnham’s other recent bullet fest, Boss Level, went straight to streaming) and despite Copshop’s slightly disposable nature, it’s genuinely nice to get a smaller, harder edged movie in with all the other summer releases…

Man-bunned, shifty con artist Teddy Murretto tears along a desert road in a stolen car riddled with bullet holes desperately looking for a safe haven from the mystery assailants that are determined to punch his clock. He eventually finds it by punching tough, rookie cop Valerie Young square in the face and finally finds the temporary oasis of protection he needs by getting slung into a cell in the local, yet incredibly remote, police station. However, Teddy’s night is far from over as keeping him company in the opposite cell is Bob Viddick, a hitman who has faked a DUI to get close to his prey and has a typically resourceful plan to escape his cage and claim his bounty, but Young proves to be far too savvy for this and so a three-way stalemate occurs while the rest of station goes about its business.
Or at least, it would have, except for a corrupt officer among their number feeding out information which leads to the arrival of one Anthony Lamb, a deranged competitor of Viddick’s who arrives in a hail of balloons and bullets who tears through the station like a dose of the shits.
In the ensuing chaos, Young proves herself to be as resourceful as all the other players in this game that seemingly has no rules and manages to barricade herself in the cell block with no way for the chatty Lamb to get in, but this now creates a brand new conundrum for the beleaguered rookie. Wounded and bleeding out fast, her salvation lies in selecting either a cold blooded hitman or a slippery trickster to release to get her the medical help she desperately needs.
Does she pick Viddick, arguably the most dangerous man in the building who may very well kill her simply for being there, or does she roll the dice and free Murretto, the man whose main reaction to life’s more extreme problems is to run as far as he can in the other direction?

In a landscape strewn with sequels, comic book movies and sequels to comic book movies it’s always refreshing to get something new come down the pipe and Carnham’s always been a good source for disposable criminal shenanigans. Copshop proves to be no different, boasting a loose, banter-filled style very close to Smokin’ Aces that puts its leads in a precarious situation; drains every ounce of trust out of it; and then piles on tons of wonderfully convoluted shenanigans that makes everyone’s life incredibly harder. Add to this a deathly glib attitude to all the craziness flying around and you’ve got yourself some vintage Carnham, but Copshop sometimes piles on too much extra stuff on top of its entertaining central concept and you feel that the movie is stuck in some kind of weird middle ground. Either it could use to drop a subplot or two to pare down it’s already lean frame (the crooked Fed plot goes nowhere), or, on the other hand, it could easily be expanded into a eight episode Netflix series to flesh out all the other officers that Young has good, casual, shoot-the-shit chemistry with.
That being said, what we have is a perfectly fine couple of hours where everyone (including Carnham as he successfully finds ways to make our extended time in the cells visually interesting) seems to be enjoying the hell out of playing cops and robbers.
Gerrard Butler takes things nice and relaxed as the calculating Viddick; willing to be calmly subdued while everyone else takes the safety off; the always dependable Frank Grillo gets to rock a Tommy Wiseau wig and stress sweat combo as the jittery Murretto; and Toby Huss ferociously weirds up the joint as the legitimately unhinged Lamb who in his ready, excitable twang suggests that a victim “buy a lottery ticket” after a drop of his blood lands on a picture of himself in the exact same spot where he’s just been shot in the head… However, impressing the most is Alexis Louder as hard-boiled rookie Valerie Young whose diminutive build hides a will of iron, rock solid views of right and wrong and an impressive natural talent for shooting guns at people while looking badass while she does it and it it’s a shame she spends a chunk of the movie shoved to the side with an injury.
Carnham’s love for 70’s pulp is well exercised here, not just because his characters mostly have morals that are a murky as a mud milkshake, but also he wears it rousingly on his sleeve by poaching Lalo Schifrin’s agonisingly awesome opening theme to Magnum Force (the second Dirty Harry film) for it’s incredibly funky opening titles and utilising Freddy’s Dead from the Superfly soundtrack continuously throughout the film.

As the film ends on a stonking gunfight that leads to an unsurprisingly enigmatic ending, you’re pretty much guaranteed a blast if this is the sort of flick that floats your boat, but there’s nothing really here to make Copshop worth revisiting and it ends up being an enjoyable, if single serving, movie that evaporates from your brain twenty minutes after having seen it.
However, its fuck-you attitude, casual violence and buckets of snark means that Copshop is just arresting enough to hit the mark.


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